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Bone Loss: The Silent Epidemic

Low bone mass called osteopenia is a danger for women and men over the age of 65. When it occurs, it puts you at high risk for serious bone loss and a disease called osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” It’s a disease that thins and weakens the bones to where they become fragile and break easily. Women and men who suffer are likely to break bones in their hips, spine or wrists, but any bone can be affected.

“You hear the story of the woman who fell and broke her hip, but in some cases what actually happens is the woman broke her hip and then fell down as a result,” says a doctor in a report by the National Institutes of Health. “A person’s bone density can become so low that rolling over in bed or waking can produce a fracture.”

Osteoporosis Treatment

    Ten years ago, many physicians looked at osteoporosis as an untreatable condition. But today, there are potent medications that can improve bone density. Some of the most commonly used medications include bisphosphonates, hormones and SERMs. Studies show these medications can decrease the risk of bone fractures in those at risk. Healthy lifestyle choices such as a well-balanced diet and weight-bearing exercise can also help support bone tissue.

    However, many sufferers may not realize that they’ve got osteopenia or osteoporosis until after they break a bone. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that half of all post-menopausal women and about one-quarter of men will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetimes.

    Screening for Bone Loss

    Doctors believe better screening techniques can identify at-risk seniors before they suffer a fracture. It’s recommended that all women over age 65 get bone density testing even if they have no risk factors for the disease. For women with risk factors, screening is recommended at age 60. There is no screening guideline for men.

    Risk factors include: a family history of bone disease, small body frame, thyroid problems, sedentary lifestyle or long-term use of steroid medications or ant-acids.

    During a bone density test you’ll lie on a padded table as an X-ray scanner passes over your body to determine the proportion of mineral contained in your bones. It’s also important for your primary care physician to measure your height every year. Losing 2 centimeters or more could mean you have a spine fracture from osteoporosis.

    If you’re diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, your care may include visits with a specialist such as an endocrinologist or rheumatologist.

    Medications that Steal Bone Strength

    These commonly prescribed medications can interfere with the bone rebuilding process:

    • Steroids
    • Thyroid medications
    • Anti-depressants
    • Ant-acids
    • Diuretics
    • Chemotherapy
    • Anti-seizure medicatio

    If you’re taking any of them, talk to your doctor about your bone health.

    Categories: Healthy Living,News

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