May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month
Osteoporosis is a condition that often has no symptoms, and many women may not know that they have it until they suffer a fracture. As it stands now, 1 in 2 women will be diagnosed with osteoporosis in their lifetime. It is important to know if you are at risk, and what you can do to help strengthen your bones and reduce your risk of fractures or other complications due to osteoporosis.
What is Osteoporosis and who is at risk?
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by weak and brittle bones, caused by a number of factors, including: sex (women are twice as likely to have osteoporosis than men), age, menopause (lack of estrogen causes loss of bone mass), family history (it tends to run in families), personal history (past or current medication use, rapid weight-loss, low-calcium diets, insufficient Vitamin D exposure or intake), and smoking. There are a variety of other risk factors, and many more that may be unknown at this time.
How can I find out if I am at risk of developing or having osteoporosis?
There are no typical symptoms associated with osteoporosis, so it can only be diagnosed through radiologic testing. A bone density scan (known as a DEXA, or DXA) is the primary diagnostic tool to diagnose osteoporosis, and uses an amplified x-ray that measures the density (or, if you prefer, strength) of the bones. While not a perfect test, it can be used to tell if a person already has osteoporosis or may be at a high-risk of becoming osteoporotic. Screening guidelines recommend that all women 65 years and older should have a DEXA scan, and women younger than 65 should have a DEXA scan ONLY if they have a number of significant risk factors and/or an existing fracture. As always, if you think you have or are at risk for osteoporosis, make an appointment to speak with your doctor about it today.
Is there anything I can do to help prevent or reverse osteoporosis?
While there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are a number of things that can be done to help prevent, slow or stop its progression.
- Prescription Medications – if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are a number of drugs on the market that can help with bone mass (talk to your doctor about what an appropriate treatment course is for you)
- Diet – A diet high in calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3s is advisable, reduce sodium intake, and watch alcohol consumption. For more information on foods for bone health visit https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/nutrition/
- Stop Smoking – Although it was mentioned previously, it bears repeating. In addition to numerous cardiovascular and pulmonary risks, smoking can directly
- Exercise – Of course we know that exercise has innumerable health benefits, but aerobic exercise, and especially weight lifting has been shown to be excellent for bone health and strength.
- Be Safe When You Move – Knowing how to prevent falls and getting around safely may seem is very important for patients with osteoporosis (1 in 4 women over 50 take a fall each year, and 95% of hip fractures in older women are caused by a fall), and to know how to exercise safely. More information can be found here https://www.nof.org/patients/fracturesfall-prevention/
For more information on osteoporosis and National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, visit The National Osteoporosis Foundation