Published on December 18, 2015
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens our skeletal bones and is one of the most common metabolic disorders we face as a nation. Especially in an aging population, osteoporosis can lead to broken bones, general fragility, and poor posture. Osteoporosis affects our bone density, which often becomes weak and the bone deposition will also have a major effect on a person’s strength. This can be due to a number of factors including and not limited to the genetics, nutrition, inactivity, non-weight bearing exercises, menopause, smoking, advancing age and other chronic illnesses (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, etc.). Osteoporosis is more common in women who are post-menopausal, but can also affect men. As we age, there is a decrease in hormones that are responsible for stimulating bone growth, and, if we don’t have enough calcium in our diets, our body will leach calcium from our bones in order to support nerve impulses, muscle contractions and blood clotting.
Osteopenia is described as the pre-cursor to osteoporosis. This is the initial loss of bone density and strength, but is not enough to classify it as complete osteoporosis. It can appear as severe acute pain following a fall or even minor trauma, such as: tripping, or motor vehicle accidents. Fractures can present in the hip, ankle, wrist, and spine- commonly found in the mid to lower thoracic spine.
Osteoporosis is also commonly known as the “silent thief” as it slowly creeps up without any warning signs or symptoms. It is often overlooked and undertreated, and only presents itself once the patient appears with a fracture.
It is recommended that you have annual physical examinations, which can help detect the onset of osteoporosis prior to it becoming debilitating and requiring drug interventions. This will help prevent severe skeletal fractures, compression of the vertebrae and increased pain as a result of weakening bone. If you are at risk for developing osteoporosis, or already have this condition, you can help yourself by being physical active and doing weight-bearing exercises. Walking, lifting weights, skipping, running or stair-climbing is a great way to maintain and build on the bone density you currently have!
Bone Mineral Density Test
The best thing to do to determine if you have osteoporosis is to have a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test done, along with a thorough physical examination by your doctor. This includes a detailed history to ensure that there are no secondary bone loss factors. A BMD test will typically be done after the age of 50 in post-menopausal women or men with risk factors. Those that are 50 and suffer a fracture should certainly be assessed further to determine if they are at future risk.
- Measure bone density
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Help reduce the chance of future fracture
- Monitor the effectiveness of treatments for osteoporosis
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends having a bone density test if you have any of the following risk factors:
- women age 65 and older
- men age 70 and older
- fracture a bone after age 50
- women of menopausal age with risk factors
- postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors
- men age 50-69 with risk factors
A bone density test may also be necessary if you have any of the following:
- an X-ray of your spine showing a break or bone loss in your spine
- back pain with a possible break in your spine
- height loss of ½ inch or more within one year
- total height loss of 1½ inches from your original height
Continue reading Part II of our article here