Prevention is Key
I have been treating osteoporosis patients for more than 10 years. Most people with osteoporosis do not even know they have it which is why it is often called the “silent disease.” It may show up as a broken bone in the spine, hips, wrist or another bone in the body.
It may surprise you to know that humans reach mass bone strength at age 35. About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Our bodies are constantly going through a process of removing old bone and replacing it with new bone. Osteoporosis results when we lose bone faster than it can be replaced. This causes the bones to become thin, fragile and more likely to break. In general, osteoporosis screening for women starts at age 50 and for men at age 65, unless they have had a prior bone break. Because females are more prone, we consider any female over 50 with a fracture to have osteoporosis until tests prove otherwise.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- A history of fractures after age 50
- An inactive lifestyle
- Being thin or having a small frame
- Cigarette smoking
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Excessive alcohol use
- Low estrogen after menopause
- Use of certain medications including
- Low lifetime calcium intake
- Steroids and thyroid medications
- Low vitamin D levels
- Caucasian ethnicity
What can I do to help prevent osteoporosis?
There are many ways to help your bones be strong and less likely to cause painful fractures. Healthy eating, including a diet rich in Calcium and vitamin D is important for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. You can increase calcium in your diet by eating calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, and broccoli. Some foods even have added calcium, such as orange juice, cereal, and breakfast bars. If you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet, you may need to take a calcium supplement. There are many supplements to choose from. Your doctor can help find the proper one for you. In addition to eating right, exercise plays a critical role in the health of your bones. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, and dancing are important for building strong bones. Finally, there are many good medications on the market that help improve your bone density if other treatments are not enough.
How do I know if I have osteoporosis?
Early diagnosis is important when it comes to osteoporosis. You don’t want to wait until you have a fracture to know you have it. The good news is that there are excellent treatments now for osteoporosis.
The only way to tell whether you have osteoporosis is to get a bone mineral density test. This is a very simple and painless way to determine the density of your bones, and it can also help determine your risk for fracture. A DEXA scan is a special type of X-ray that measures bone mineral density (BMD). DEXA stands for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. These scans tell us the strength measurement of the spine and hip bones and put them into a range of osteoporosis or osteopenia.
My practice at OrthoCarolina Boone offers an osteoporosis clinic to help you find out if you are at risk so you can prevent osteoporosis down the road. Osteoporosis is an easily diagnosed problem and diagnosis is generally covered by insurance. Patients can schedule an appointment on their own at a time convenient to them, or be referred by their primary care physician. Newer osteoporosis medicines are safe and effective, and if you don’t want prescriptions, vitamin supplements are available as well. If you don’t live in the Boone area, an OrthoCarolina office close to you can also screen you for osteoporosis.
Lynn Gilbert PA-C is a physician assistant with OrthoCarolina Boone. To schedule an appointment or osteoporosis consultation with her call 828-264-1100 or 704-323-2778. To schedule an osteoporosis screening outside of the Boone metro area call 704-323-2778.