Assessing Walking Ability Could Help Predict Fracture Risk in Older Adults

Assessing Walking Ability Could Help Predict Fracture Risk in Older Adults

A new study conducted by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Sydney has found that being able to walk one kilometre comfortably can help predict fracture risk for older adults. The study, published in JAMA Network Open, suggests that simply asking patients about their walking abilities could enable healthcare professionals to identify individuals who may require further bone health screening and interventions to prevent fractures.

Lead author of the study, Professor Jacqueline Center, explains that trouble walking even short distances is closely linked to a higher risk of fractures within the next five years. By asking patients a few simple questions about their walking abilities, doctors could have an early warning sign to check their bone health and provide appropriate interventions.

The study revealed that one in five adults reported some walking limitation at the beginning of the study. The research further demonstrated that individuals with more difficulty walking were significantly more likely to experience fractures during the follow-up period. For example, women with a “a lot” of walking limitation had a 60% higher fracture risk compared to women with no limitation, while men experienced an increased risk of over 100%.

The findings also showed that approximately 60% of all fractures in the study were associated with some level of walking limitation. These results remained consistent even after considering other factors such as age, falls, prior fractures, and weight. Fracture risk was observed across various sites, including hips, vertebrae, arms, and legs.

According to Professor Center, this simple assessment of walking ability could help identify more individuals who are at risk and would benefit from bone density screening or preventative treatment. Currently, screening rates for fracture risk assessments remain low, so finding easy and accurate ways to detect those at risk is crucial.

By considering walking ability as a red flag for possible bone health issues, clinicians can potentially improve early detection and intervention. Patients who struggle to walk a full kilometre comfortably are encouraged to discuss their concerns with their doctors and inquire about bone health checks. Detecting at-risk individuals early on can lead to a reduction in fractures and improved bone strength through appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) Based on the Article:

1. What did the study conducted by researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW Sydney find?
– The study found that being able to walk one kilometre comfortably can help predict fracture risk for older adults.

2. How can healthcare professionals identify individuals who may require further bone health screening and interventions to prevent fractures?
– Healthcare professionals can identify such individuals by simply asking patients about their walking abilities.

3. What is the link between trouble walking short distances and the risk of fractures?
– Trouble walking even short distances is closely linked to a higher risk of fractures within the next five years.

4. How can doctors use patients’ walking abilities as an early warning sign?
– Doctors can ask patients a few simple questions about their walking abilities to check their bone health and provide appropriate interventions.

5. How many adults reported walking limitations at the beginning of the study?
– One in five adults reported walking limitations at the beginning of the study.

6. What was the relationship between walking difficulty and fracture risk?
– Individuals with more difficulty walking were significantly more likely to experience fractures during the follow-up period.

7. What was the percentage of fractures in the study associated with some level of walking limitation?
– Approximately 60% of all fractures in the study were associated with some level of walking limitation.

8. What are the various sites where fracture risk was observed?
– Fracture risk was observed across various sites, including hips, vertebrae, arms, and legs.

9. Why is the assessment of walking ability important?
– Assessing walking ability can help identify individuals at risk and in need of bone density screening or preventative treatment.

10. What can early detection and intervention lead to?
– Early detection and intervention can lead to a reduction in fractures and improved bone strength through appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes.

Key Definitions:
– Fracture: A break in a bone or cartilage.
– Intervention: An action or process undertaken to prevent harm or improve a situation.
– Bone density screening: A test that measures the density of bones to assess their strength and risk of fractures.

Suggested Related Links:
1. Garvan Institute of Medical Research
2. UNSW Sydney
3. JAMA Network Open

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