Check Your Health

Osteoporosis and Your Health

Osteoporosis is a disease of weak bones.  Osteoporosis means “porous bones.” It is a common disease. Ten million Americans have osteoporosis.

A woman's risk of osteoporosis is equal to her combined risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Eighty percent of patients with osteoporosis are women. Twenty percent are men.

A man older than 50 is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer. Half of all women older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

The problem isn't just the broken bones. The problem is that it often starts a downward spiral of pain, disability and loss of independence.

Six Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention:    
1. Get enough calcium and vitamin D (helps to absorb calcium) and eat a well balanced diet.
2. Don’t smoke; if you do smoke, quit.
3. Drink alcohol only in moderation
4. Do weight bearing and resistance exercises
5. Talk to your doctor or health care provider who may recommend tests, medicines, exercises
6. When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication

The only sure way to determine bone density and fracture risk for osteoporosis is to have a bone mass measurement (also called bone mineral density or BMD test). Your doctor can help you determine whether you should have a BMD test. BMD testing should be performed on:

  • All women aged 65 and older regardless of risk factors
  • Younger postmenopausal women with one or more risk factors (other than being white, postmenopausal and female)
  • Postmenopausal women who present with fractures (to confirm the diagnosis and determine disease severity)

There are several ways to measure bone mineral density; all are painless, noninvasive and safe and are becoming more readily available. In many testing centers you don't even have to change into an examination robe.

Exercise is also key to good bone health. If you exercise regularly in childhood and adolescence, you are more likely to reach your peak bone density than those who are inactive. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, racquet sports and hiking. If you have been sedentary most of your adult life, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.
older people jogging

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, you will be unable to absorb calcium from the foods you eat, and your body will have to take calcium from your bones. Vitamin D comes from two sources: through the skin following direct exposure to sunlight, and from the diet.

According to the surgeon general report published in Oct 2004:

  • $13.8 billion each year in health care expenses and lost productivity
  • An estimated 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis
  • Each year an estimated 1.5 million people suffer broken bones that are osteoporotic-related, an event that often leads to a downward spiral in physical and mental health.
  • 20 percent of senior citizens who suffer a hip fracture die within 1 year.
  • One out of every two women over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
  • Due primarily to the aging of the population and the previous lack of focus on bone health, the number of hip fractures in the United States could double or even triple by the year 2020
  • Without concerted effort, by 2020 half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk

Related and referenced web sites:

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