Osteoporosis – The Silent Disease

By: Christine Vickers, MLS, CAS

It seems as if everyone knows someone who suffers from this disease. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, Osteoporosis is common as approximately 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and/or low bone mass. The NOF states that studies show that one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and above will break a bone due to Osteoporosis. Further statistics are even grimmer, the NOF shares that osteoporosis is responsible for two million broken bones and 19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, medical professionals predict that osteoporosis will be responsible for almost 3 million fractures and 25.3 billion costs annually.

Exactly what is this disease and what are the causes? The NOF notes that osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone or both. This results in bones that are weak and that may break due to a fall, etc. When looked at under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honey comb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in a healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure.

The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and related Bone Diseases National Resource Center notes that there are many risk factors which can cause this disease. Some risk factors are things that patients can change and some that they cannot.

Some identifiers are listed below. By perusing this list, you can see if you have any risk factors of Osteoporosis: Some are: Gender, Age, Body Size, Ethnicity, and history of Osteoporosis tend to run in families. White and Asian women are at the highest risk. Other risk factors include: Anorexia nervosa, sex hormonal changes, low estrogen for women and low testosterone for men, insufficient Calcium and vitamin D intake, to name a few. Black and Hispanic women have a lower risk.

Prevention

Having an appropriate supply of calcium is a key element in warding off Osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream, dark-green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach and other foods like sardines and salmon. Additionally, Calcium can be found in fortified foods like orange juice, cereals and breads. Calcium supplements can be taken if you are not consuming enough of the required amounts. The amounts of calcium vary by age and need. A body’s demand for calcium is great during childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and breast feeding. Postmenopausal women and older men should increase their calcium intake. Older adults are more likely to take medication that impairs the ability of the body to absorb the calcium. Vitamin D is an important part of maintaining the health of your bones. Vitamin D can be found in diets that include egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver. Lack of vitamin D can be found in older adults or others who are housebound and are not able to absorb the vitamin naturally from the atmosphere. The recommended dosage for vitamin D intake for adults up to age 70 is 600 IU. Adults over age 70 should increase intake to 800 IU.

It is a good idea to be proactive, try exercising it is a critical element in maintaining bone health. In addition, walking, hiking, climbing stairs, weight training, tennis and dancing help too. Women who smoke have lower estrogen, and smoking may absorb less calcium from food. Try to limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day.

Symptoms/Detection/Treatment

Osteoporosis can be called the silent disease as bone loss often happens without any outward signs. Many times, people will not know that their bones are brittle until a fall causes a fracture or strain. For an assessment on bone health, a doctor may recommend a bone mineral density test (BMD) A BMD test is similar to an x-ray and can measure several things, including; detecting low bone density before a fracture occurs, confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis, and if you already have one or more fractures, predict your chances of fracturing in the future and determine your rate of bone loss.

After a BMD a doctor may recommend a treatment program that focuses on nutrition, exercise and medication. The NIH offers tips for eliminating environmental hazards that may increase or exacerbate symptoms of osteoporosis, here are just a few: wear rubber soled or heavy shoes that provide traction,

Use a cane or a walker for added stability, In winter, carry salt or kitty litter to sprinkle on slippery sidewalks. (This is especially important in Central New York!) Indoors, keep rooms’ clutter free and floor surfaces smooth but not slick. Avoid walking in socks, stockings or slippers. Depending on your diagnosis your doctor may also recommend rubber bath mats and grab bars for your shower and tub. Wear a health alert device that in the event of a fall, help will come quickly.

*Information for this article was obtained from the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases- National Resource Center and the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

For further knowledge regarding Osteoporosis, please visit: NOF – www.nof.org NIH- www.bones.nih.gov