The Time to Prevent Bone Loss is Now
SIOUX FALLS (Feb. 1, 2013) - You might think of it as a disease of old age, but the time to prevent osteoporosis is in your 20s, 30s and 40s.
Osteoporosis is a common bone disease marked by thinning and weakening of the bones, and loss of bone regrowth, said Beth Kruse, certified nurse practitioner with CORE Orthopedics Avera Medical Group in Sioux Falls. “It’s a silent disease. Bones are breaking down and becoming weaker and more fragile, and people don’t even know it.”
Both men and women can develop osteoporosis, but women are at greater risk due to their smaller size, and the effects of menopause. Besides being female, other risk factors include being over age 50; a history of bone fractures; smoking; heavy alcohol intake; being underweight for your height; early menopause or hysterectomy; a history of certain medications or treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or steroids; and certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease.
In the elderly, the effects of osteoporosis usually show up as spine compression which causes curvature or a “hump” in the upper back, frequent fractures due to brittle bones, and pain and immobility caused by those fractures.
At age 30, bones stop the process of building, and bone loss can begin. At menopause, which typically happens around age 50, bone loss becomes more rapid. The time to begin preventing osteoporosis is now, especially if you are in your 20s, 30s or 40s, Kruse said.
Make sure you get enough vitamin D and calcium, two nutrients that are vital to bone health. One of the best sources is low-fat or non-fat dairy products, but also dark leafy green vegetables, calcium-fortified orange juice and almonds. If you don’t get the recommended daily allowance through diet, take daily supplements, Kruse advised. “As we age, we typically don’t get enough of these nutrients,” she added.
Talk to your physician about your medications, and whether they can increase your risk for osteoporosis.
DEXA Scan screening is recommended for men and women age 65 and older, or for those age 50 or older who have had a fracture attributed to fragility. It’s an easy, painless, non-invasive test. DEXA, dual X-ray absorptiometry, uses two X-ray beams – one high energy and one low energy beam. The amount of X-rays that pass through the bone is measured for each beam to determine bone density. Radiation exposure is low – about the same as a chest X-ray.
“You can’t change your age or genetics, but smoking, diet, exercise, and calcium and vitamin D intake are all modifiable factors,” Kruse said. About 4.5 million women – or 10 percent – and 800,000 men – 2 percent – have osteoporosis of the hip. Each year, there are approximately 279,000 fractures, and average length of hospital stay is 6.3 days, according to the CDC.
“The cost is high, and these are numbers we hope can control through prevention,” Kruse said.
To learn more about osteoporosis and other orthopedic health issues, go to www.COREOrthopedics.org