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What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis means “porous bone” and is a disease of the bone resulting in decreased quality and density/structure making the bones brittle and more prone to fracture. As this disease progresses, a patient’s risk of fracture increases. Osteoporosis is considered a ‘silent’ disease because there are often no symptoms and patients are frequently unaware they have osteoporosis until they encounter their first fracture.

How frequent is the Development of Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is considered a major health problem worldwide . It is estimated that about 44 million Americans or over half of the poplulation over 50 are affected by this condition. Statistics indicate that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50 have osteoporosis and are at increased risk of sustaining an osteoporotic fracture. As patients age, that risk increases.

What is the Procedure for Diagnosis of Osteoporosis?

There is a specific test called a bone mineral density (BMD) test, also called a DEXA scan, for the diagnosis of osteoporosis. The results of this test are depicted in T-scores to identify whether bone mass is normal or below normal. When the T-score is -2.5 or below, it indicates a patient has a diagnosis of osteoporosis. The lower the value of the T-score, the more advanced the disease and the patient’s risk of fracture increases. Osteoporosis can also be diagnosed through the presence of a fracture condition. If a person age 50 or older sustains a fracture due to a minor injury such as a fall from a standing height or less, an osteoporosis diagnosis is made.

What does a person go through after a fracture?

Fractures are associated with pain and discomfort. Based on the location and severity of the fracture, a person may face different complications. Fracture of the spine is called vertebral fracture and can result in loss of height, abnormal curvature in the shoulder or back and often back pain. Vertebral fractures can also cause breathing problems, stomach pain and digestive discomfort. Other fractures such as wrist, arm, leg, pelvis, or ribs may cause severe pain and causal disability. In such fractures, surgery, casting, or splinting are usually recommended.

Hip fractures are considered one of the most devastating types of fractures to occur. Hip fractures can result in total dependence of the patient; help may be required even for performing daily routine activities such as bathing, dressing and walking. Usually surgery is recommended for hip fractures which adds the possibility of post-operative complications. After surgery, patients may require skilled nursing care for a specific duration and loss of independence is a potential outcome.

How can one Prevent Osteoporosis and Breakage of Bones?

For preventing the development of osteoporosis and fractures, it is important to follow these instructions:

  • Eat a healthy, nutritional, well balanced diet including fruits and vegetables
  • Intake adequate calcium (1000-1200 mg) daily in your diet. Food products rich in calcium are low fat dairy foods (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens), canned fish (sardines, salmon) eaten with bones, or calcium-fortified (with calcium added) foods.
  • Consume the recommended amount of vitamin D in your diet or consider supplementation. Natural sources of vitamin D are fatty fish such as catfish, eel, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Small amounts of vitamin D are added to all cow’s milk and some types of almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, yogurt, cheese, juice, and nutrition bars.
  • Participate in regular physical exercise.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Regularly consult your health care provider regarding your bone health and if required undergo a bone mineral density (BMD) test.

Fall Prevention:

Fall prevention is an important aspect of osteoporosis management. Surveying the environment and eliminating potential indoor and outdoor fall hazards can decrease the the risk of falls and subsequent fragility fractures. Removing throw rugs, wearing slip resistant footwear, use of handrails when maneuvering stairs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom are some simple steps that are helpful in fall prevention.