I enjoy continuing my education and staying up to date on health related news, especially as it relates to the senior population. If you stumbled across our website, it’s probably because you care deeply for one, or a few, seniors of your own! Below is a brief update for you guys on some things relating to osteoporosis. For awhile, osteoporosis was a hot topic, but it seems to have fizzled out recently. Let’s light that fire again.
Osteoporosis can be defined simply as decreased bone mass. It can also be defined very difficult(ly), but we’ll leave that to the pro’s. At a certain point throughout our lifetime, old bone is removed from our skeleton faster than new bone can be added. When we are young, we add bone faster than we lose it. Women end up at an increased risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis partly due to menopause, as bone loss occurs quickly in the few years after menopause.
10 million people in the United States are already diagnosed with osteoporosis and 34 million people have low bone mass, meaning they are at increased risk of developing the disease in the future. Low bone mass does not always mean osteoporosis, when a physician gets the result back from a DEXA scan, the “T Score” gives the doctor more information about HOW low the patient’s bone mineral density is. The current figure, according to the NIH, is that one out of every two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will have a fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. This number is startling, as we all know the negative effects fractures, specifically hip and spine fractures can have on our elderly loved ones.
Let’s take a look at some risk factors associated with a person developing osteoporosis. Many people who end up diagnosed with osteoporosis have risk factors, while some don’t have any.
Gender- women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, but don’t ever forget that men can, and absolutely do get diagnosed as well
Age- the older you are, the greater your risk!
Body Size- smaller body types are at greater risk
Ethnicity- Caucasian and Asian women are at greatest risk
Family History- it has been found that families that have a history of fractures tend to continue that trend as well as have lower bone masses
The above noted risk factors are those that you cannot change, but factors that can be kept in mind if you’re keeping an eye out for someone you love and trying to stay ahead of the game. Below are more risk factors that you can change, so take action or bring issues to light if you think it could be helpful for your elderly friend or family member.
Sex hormones- low estrogen, low testosterone, and others lead to osteoporosis
Anorexia- this eating disorder can increase one ‘s risk
Calcium and vitamin D intake- decreased intake of vitamin D and calcium, generally throughout a lifetime, can increase risk
Medication use- long term use of glucocorticoids and some anticonvulsants can increase a person’s risk
Lifestyle, Cigarette Smoking, and Alcohol Intake- inactive lifestyle or (ugh) bed rest, which we know can occur with our loved ones too quickly or too often, can unfortunately lead to a decrease in bone mass. Excessive consumption of alcohol and/or cigarettes increases risk of bone loss. Encourage those that you know to get on their feet and go for a walk, as regular exercise can help maintain bone mass.
Take note of the above factors listed (thanks again to the NIH), and make some changes both for you- it’s never to early to start- to clean up your life style and reduce you/your loves ones risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis in the future. Osteoporosis is often called a “silent” disease because most people don’t present with symptoms until a fracture occurs, yikes! So get a head start, educate yourself, and change the risk factors you can, and make a mental note for those that you can’t. Be progressive while at the doctor’s office and ask what they think about your loved one’s chance of having osteoporosis and see if they recommend a DEXA scan if someone you love has multiple risk factors. It’s always beneficial to be pro active while seeing the physician if you have concerns, especially when it has to do with the health of you or the ones you love. Knowledge is power!