Although about 54 million Americans likely have osteoporosis or osteopenia, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, many are not aware of this. To increase awareness, Joan Brunfeldt, a physician with the Reed Medical Group, will present “No Bones About It; Diagnosis and Treatment Overview of Osteoporosis” at the next Senior Supper and Seminar program on June 16, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
The word "osteoporosis" means “porous bone.” During mid-life, existing bone cells start being reabsorbed by the body faster than new bone cells are made. Bones then lose minerals, mass and structure, making them weaker and increasing the risk of breaking.
About one in two women and up to one in four men over age 50 may break a bone due to osteoporosis. With increasing age, recovery from a bone fracture can take longer and many never recover or if they do, cannot live independently again.Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease since it often presents without symptoms. A bone fracture, such as in a hip or a wrist, may be the first indication that someone has osteoporosis. Another sign can be a loss in height due to a fracture in the vertebrae in the back.
Osteopenia usually occurs long before osteoporosis. With osteopenia, bones are starting to lose mass but not enough to be considered osteoporosis. If intervention occurs, progression to developing osteoporosis may not always result. A bone mineral density test, often called a DXA scan, can detect whether an individual has osteopenia or osteoporosis, and also calculate the risk of having a bone fracture.
There are several risk factors, both controllable and non-controllable, for developing osteoporosis, including:
- Gender: Women are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis until about age 75, when almost as many men also have the disease.
- Family history
- Size: a smaller frame or small bones
- Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian women are most at risk. However, African-American and Hispanic women also may develop osteoporosis.
Other risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive alcohol use, long-term use of some medications, a diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D, and certain diseases that can lead to bone loss. For more information, visit nof.org.
There are several measures that help to build and maintain strong bones:
- Adequate calcium intake throughout life: Over age 50, most women should aim for at least 1200 mg/day of calcium and men for 1000 mg/day. This can be achieved through diet and supplements.
- Vitamin D: This is needed to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be obtained from foods such as fortified milk, egg yolks and some fish, plus sun exposure. Ask your health care provider if calcium and vitamin D supplementation is recommended for you.
- Exercise: Bones get stronger and stay dense with exercise. Aim for at least 150 minutes of weight-bearing exercise such as walking each week. Balance exercises such as tai chi can help prevent falls and thus bone fractures. LMH Therapy Services offers four levels of Tai Chi for Balance classes. The next sessions begin in early fall. Visit lmh.org or call 505-2712 for more information.
- Home safety: Ensure your home is fall-hazard free. LMH, along with community partner the Lawrence Public Library, will offer a fall prevention program known as Stepping On in the coming weeks. Watch area newspapers, visit lmh.org or call LMH ConnectCare at (785) 749-5800 in early July for the dates.
- Health care visits: See your health care provider annually and discuss osteoporosis prevention strategies or treatment options. Ask whether you need a bone mineral density test.
For more information on osteoporosis go to lmh.org and click Wellness Resources, then Health Library. Or plan to attend the next Senior Supper and Seminar program on June 16 (supper at 5 p.m., seminar at 6 p.m.). Enrollment is required at least 24 hours in advance by calling Connect Care at 749-5800. There is a $5.50 fee for the supper; the seminar is free.
— Aynsley Anderson, MA, RN, is Community Education Coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, which is a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at email@example.com.