The Truth About Osteoporosis
Bismruta Misra, MD, MPH, FACE, Medical Director, Stamford Health Osteoporosis Center
Think you might be at risk for osteoporosis?
If any risk factors apply to you, please call our Osteoporosis Center at 203.276.4325 for more information.
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Osteoporosis is a silent and unfortunately rarely discussed condition that causes bones to become weaker, therefore increasing the risk of fractures. Fractures are debilitating and can be associated with death. 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and over 40 million have low bone density, a precursor to osteoporosis. Here are some truths at a glance:
- Osteoporosis causes 2 million bone fractures every year.
- 1 in 2 women age 50 and over will sustain an osteoporotic fracture.
- Osteoporosis leads to more than 800,000 emergency room visits and more than 2.6 million doctor appointments annually.
- 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis.
- More U.S. women die each year from complications of hip fracture than from breast cancer.
- A woman’s risk of hip fracture equals her combined risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer.
I am endocrinologist and part of this specialty is taking care of osteoporosis. My goal is to prevent fractures so that my patients can remain active and healthy throughout their life.
An endocrinologist’s advice about maintaining good bone health through the years is not only for elderly patients. It is important to start thinking about your bone health from childhood to adulthood.
1. Exercise regularly. This is not only good for your bones, but also for your health. Weight bearing exercises ranging from walking, tennis, tai chi, or essentially any activity where you are standing, will help to keep your bones strong. We also recommend adding in weight training and strengthening exercises such as pilates and gentle yoga. Mix it up so it stays fun!
2. Determine the right amount of calcium and vitamin D. Most Americans should aim to obtain calcium from their diet (see this calcium calculator), and most will need vitamin D in supplement form. If you have medical conditions that affect your vitamin absorption, your doctor may recommend larger amounts.
3. Ask your doctor about obtaining a bone density test. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that all women over 65 or of postmenopausal age with risk factors, as well as men over 70, talk to their doctors about a bone density test to diagnose osteoporosis. Certain medical conditions, medications and other risk factors such as family history could warrant bone density test sooner. This is a painless, 15-minute test that will help predict your risk of breaking a bone. Statistics show that women who have bone density scans have 35% fewer hip fractures than those who do not.
4. Take action to prevent falls. Look around the house and assess where are likely places to fall, ie: loose rugs and slippery stairs. Don’t walk around in socks, and keep a light by your bed in case you need to get up in the middle of the night. Some of these may seem obvious, but addressing them could prevent a fall and therefore a fracture!
5. Don’t be afraid of medications if they are recommended to you.
There is a lot of controversy and misconception regarding medications. The medications that are currently FDA approved are safe and significantly reduce the risk of hip fracture. A 50-year-old woman has a 50 percent chance of having an osteoporotic fracture in her remaining years. Medications are recommended because they reduce the rate of fractures, some drugs as much as a 70% reduction in vertebral fractures and 40% reduction in hip fractures. The rare side effects and complications pale in comparison to these numbers.
Osteoporotic fractures are preventable! Take steps to improve your bone health; they will improve your overall health!