Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, or fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity. Women are four times more likely than men to develop this debilitating disease.
Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention:
• Get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D
Many women and young girls consume less than half the amount of calcium recommended to grow and maintain healthy bones. Adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and adults age 50 and over need 1,200-1500 mg of calcium daily. If you have difficulty getting enough calcium from the foods you eat, you may take a calcium supplement to make up the difference. Calcium citrate is absorbed when taken with Vitamin D or Magnesium.
• Vitamin D – Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, you will be unable to absorb calcium from the foods you eat, and your body will have to take calcium from your bones. Vitamin D comes from two sources: through the skin following direct exposure to sunlight and from your diet. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommendations, adults under age 50 need 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily, and adults age 50 and over need 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. There are two types of vitamin D supplements. They are vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Previous research suggested that vitamin D3 was a better choice than vitamin D2. However, more recent studies show that vitamin D3 and vitamin D2 are equally good for bone health. Vitamin D allows calcium to leave the intestine for absorption, and works in the kidneys to reabsorb the calcium that would otherwise be excreted.
• Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise
Exercise is also essential to good bone health. If you exercise regularly in childhood and adolescence, you are more likely to reach your peak bone density than those who are inactive. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, racquet sports and hiking. If you have been sedentary most of your adult life, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program.
• Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
For men, alcoholism is one of the leading risk factors for osteoporosis. In men and women, excess consumption of alcohol reduces bone formation and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
• Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health
Speaking with your healthcare professional about osteoporosis will help you better understand your own risk for the disease as well as available prevention or treatment options. Listed below are several questions that are intended to help you discuss osteoporosis with your healthcare professional:
• Based on my medical history, lifestyle and family background, am I at risk for osteoporosis?
• How do I know if someone in my family suffered from osteoporosis? (What physical signs or symptoms should I be looking for?)
• Am I currently taking any medication that puts me at higher risk for developing osteoporosis?
• How do I best prevent (or treat) osteoporosis?
• How do I know if my bone density is low?
• How much calcium is right for me? How do I best obtain this calcium?
• Should I engage in exercise? What kind of exercise is best? How often should I exercise?
• How do I know if I have fractured a bone in my spine?
If you have osteoporosis or if your healthcare provider believes you are at high risk for the disease, you may want to ask the following questions:
• What medications are available to help me?
• What are the benefits/side effects of these medications? Will these medications interact with other medications I am already taking for other conditions?
• How do I know that my prevention or treatment program is effective?
• Do any of the medications I am taking for other conditions cause dizziness, light-headedness, disorientation or a loss of balance that could lead to
• When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication
Osteoporosis testing is performed by measuring bone mass using a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry machine (DXA). DXA is the best method of obtaining an individual’s bone density which is critical to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. While the use of DXA scans is recognized the World Health Organization, the US Surgeon General and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as the gold standard for the testing for osteoporosis, only about one in four Medicare women receive their DEXA scan every two years. Without early diagnosis and treatment, osteoporosis can lead to debilitating fractures, loss of mobility, permanent disability, costly nursing home stays, and even death .A recent study by Kaiser Southern California’s Healthy Bones program found that increased utilization of DXA testing and subsequent treatment resulted in a 37% decrease in hip fracture rates and a $30.8 million savings among its 3.1 million members in one year alone. Patient access to DXA testing is threatened as inadequate reimbursement forces more physicians to stop providing this critical preventative service. Medicare reimbursement has been reduced by 50% since 2006 and more budget cuts are scheduled for 2010. More information regarding this issue can be attained at http://www.nof.org.
Information from the National Osteoporosis Foundation: www. NOF.org and ACNM.org
For more info on risk factors of osteoporosis: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/DS00128/DSECTION=risk-factors