Dr. Teresa Hillier of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., said a study found older women who lost more than 2 inches in 15 years were 50 percent more likely than women who lost less than 2 inches in height both to fracture a bone and to die in the subsequent five years.
"Most women do lose height as they age, but we found that those who lost more than 2 inches were at higher risk of breaking a bone and of dying," Hillier said in a statement. "These women were at higher risk of dying from a fracture, but they were also at higher risk of dying from more common causes, including heart disease."
Hillier, the study author, and colleagues said the study involved 3,124 U.S. women who were age 65 and older during the mid-1980s, when they were recruited for the two-decade-long Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.
Height loss was determined by comparing height measurements taken during an initial clinic visit with measurements taken during a clinic visit 15 years later.
"Most older women remember how tall they were in their mid 20s, and if they measure 2 inches shorter than that, clinicians should consider bone density testing, counseling and possible treatment to help prevent fractures," Hillier said in a statement.
The findings are published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.
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