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Elderly Diabetics More at Risk of Bone Fractures

People in their 70s have a more than 60 percent higher risk of fractures if they also have type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, according to new study findings. Study author Dr. Elsa S. Strotmeyer, stated that "Many adults with type 2 diabetes are overweight and people often think that fractures are only a problem for thin or frail older adults."

"I hope that our work increases awareness among patients and health care providers that someone with diabetes and certain diabetes-related complications is at a higher risk of fracture even if they have a larger body size," added the researcher, based at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

According to the report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, diabetics typically have a higher bone density than non-diabetics yet seem to have a higher risk of fractures.

To investigate further, Strotmeyer and her team followed 2979 well-functioning people between the ages of 70 and 79 for an average of 4-1/2 years, noting who developed fractures. At the study’s outset, all participants could easily walk one-quarter of a mile, and keep up with day-to-day activities. Nineteen percent had diabetes.

The people with diabetes tended to weigh more than those who didn’t have the disease, but had a 64 percent higher risk of fractures. Among diabetics, those with a history of falls and stroke were more likely to experience fractures.

These results suggest that neurological or movement problems may explain why diabetics are more prone to fracture, Strotmeyer noted.

She added that people with diabetes can try to avoid falls by wearing rubber-soled shoes, making sure they walk in well-lit areas, and avoiding medications that increase falling risks.

"Older adults with diabetes should follow general fracture prevention guidelines," Strotmeyer advised.
Archives of Internal Medicine, July 25, 2005.
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