Don’t let osteoporosis break you
As our baby boomers age, we are beginning to see more trends in their health. One of the issues that continues be a quiet topic of concern is decreased bone density. It doesn’t get the attention other health issues do, but it is still serious and is a leading cause of reduced mobility, activity and fractures in our aging population.
One in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will sustain a bone fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Osteoporosis is weakening of the bones, and despite common belief it is not a natural part of aging. We have ways to detect osteoporosis that are simple and relatively inexpensive (very often completely covered by insurance, including Medicare). We also know that certain risk factors can be addressed with changing our habits. This is a common disease, and we have treatments that can not only help those that have osteoporosis, but also keep people from getting it.
It is estimated that in the United States, we will spend $25.3 billion on osteoporosis in 2025. This money will primarily be spent treating the estimated 3 million osteoporosis-related fractures per year. We as a society can decrease the money spent on treating the injuries caused by osteoporosis by educating people that we need to screen for it and use our resources to prevent it from ever occurring.
Breaking a bone isn’t the end of the world, is it? Many of us have had fractures as younger people, and we are doing fine. However, data shows that 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from complications. In addition, we often have to repair fractures with surgical intervention, and this takes time, in-home assistance, and puts a strain on family and friends. We also must consider permanent effects on mobility and quality of life after a fracture.
As we go through life we build and break down bone constantly. When we are young we build faster than we break down. At a certain point, the rates reverse, and we must pay attention to how active we are and make sure we are incorporating weight-bearing activity, which helps preserve our bone. We must also continue to eat well and supplement calcium and vitamin D, so our bodies have the building blocks necessary to keep our bones healthy.
Screening is a simple process. Visit with a health care provider to discuss your risk factors. If appropriate, imaging can be ordered. The imaging used is called a DEXA scan. DEXA is an extremely accurate way to determine your bone density. This is a type of X-ray that is easy for the patient. After a DEXA scan, you will receive a report with one of three results; normal, osteopenia (decreased bone density), or osteoporosis (severe loss of bone density). You then review these results with your provider and make a treatment plan.
If you have a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis, you have several treatment options. Vitamin supplementation and exercise are a great way to fight decreased bone. Often, we can find lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, dietary changes, and adding vegetables to your diet, can be beneficial. There are also multiple medications available for treatment of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is here to stay, and as we continue to live longer we will need to educate, screen and treat those at risk for developing osteoporosis. We currently have multiple tools to help prevent, diagnose, and treat this debilitating disease.
If you would like more information on osteoporosis, you can attend a free seminar Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. in the EIRMC cancer center meeting room. For more information, feel free to call The Spine Center at EIRMC at (208) 535-4444.