Pink Prescriptions: Osteoporosis


The National Osteoporosis Foundation quotes, “A woman’s risk of breaking a hip secondary to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined.”  Ladies…pay attention to your bones, your hips and spine will thank you and keep you standing tall!

Am I at risk for osteoporosis and at what age should I be checked for it?
Osteoporosis is one of the so-called silent diseases because most people don’t know they are osteoporotic until it is too late and they already have broken a bone! Every year it is estimated that over two million bone breaks or fractures can be associated with osteoporosis. The bones can be so weakened or brittle, not only do falls cause breaks, but also sudden turns, twists, or strains. So, it is best to know if you are at increased risk and what you can do to prevent osteoporosis.

Risk factors we cannot change:
Gender: Ladies outnumber men affected by osteoporosis.
Age: The older you are the more your risk goes up.
Race: Being white or Asian puts you in a higher risk group.
Family history: Having a parent with a history of a hip fracture.
Frame size: Having less bone mass means that when you start to lose density as you age, there is less to take from.

Other risk factors involve contributing medical conditions or changes in the body:
Menopause: Remember this is not a disease, but a change in the body’s hormone levels. The decrease in estrogen is thought to be one of the strongest risk factors for osteoporosis.
Certain cancer treatments: Some treatments can decrease
estrogen levels.
Thyroid disease: Either too much thyroid hormone with hyperthyroidism or supplementing too much thyroid medicine in hypothyroid can contribute to osteoporosis.
Eating disorders: Such as anorexia.
Gastric by pass surgery: Decreased stomach size and intestine length can affect the ability to absorb calcium and nutrients.
Steroid use: Prednisone can interfere with the bone rebuilding process.

How is Osteoporosis detected?
Osteoporosis is detected with a painless test called DEXA or bone density scan.

When should I start getting bone scans?
All women over 65 should have a DEXA, earlier if there is a history of a broken bone, especially if the break was after 50 years old. People with multiple risk factors should be tested earlier. Five to seven years after menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of bone mass, so high risk women should be tested at this time. A woman should have her height checked yearly after 50, and if there is a decrease, this is another reason to get a DEXA.
-Tracy Ann Blusewicz, M.D., F.A.C.O.G
OB/Gyn Advanced Women’s Care

Does height loss always occur with aging?
Some height loss is a natural and normal part of aging. Starting at age 40, we can lose close to a half-inch of height every 10 years. This is due to changes in our bones, our discs, our muscles in the spine, and even our posture.  As we age, our spine loses bone density in the vertebra, and the discs that separate each vertebra lose their gel-like consistency, becoming thin and worn.  As a result, our spine actually becomes shorter.  Does this mean osteoporosis?  Not necessarily.  

So when should we worry?
If you notice rapid height loss, loss of more than a half-inch in a year, or total height loss of more than one and a half inches from your original height, it is important to visit your health care provider. These height changes are a sign that you might have osteoporosis; osteoporosis increases your risk for fractures of the hip and back, so it is important to take height loss seriously.

-Rachel Mullen, MPT, Licensed Physical Therapist
Wellness Institute

What steps can I take to prevent osteoporosis?
Healthy lifestyle habits can help protect your bones and reduce your chance of getting osteoporosis. Whether you’re 15 or 50, now is the time to take action. It could affect your bone health the rest of your life.

To keep your bones strong:
• Be sure you’re getting the recommended calcium and vitamin D for your age. Women 50 and younger should consume 1,000 mg. daily. If you’re older than 50, increase it to 1,200 mg.
• Eat foods rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients that are important for your bone and overall health. Calcium-packed foods include collard greens, broccoli, okra, kale, sardines, salmon, low-fat yogurt, cheese and skim milk.  
• Include weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises as part of your workout routine. Spend 30 minutes most days performing weight-bearing activities, such as dancing, fast walking, stair climbing or tennis. To strengthen your muscles, you can lift weights, use weight machines or elastic exercise bands two or three days a week. If you’re short on time, spread out your exercise sessions throughout the day. The benefits to your bones are the same.
• Avoid smoking and limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day.

-Charles Sevastos, D.O. F.A.C.O.F.P.
Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care

What causes the hump at the top of my grandmother’s back?
This spinal hump is called a “dowagers hump” and is caused when a person with Osteoporosis suffers a spontaneous “wedge” or compression fracture of the vertebrae. Osteoporosis of the spinal column usually occurs in the area between the shoulder blades where the front of the vertebra collapses, causing the spine to curve frontward, giving a stooped appearance.
-Susan Eison
DayBreak Adult Care Services of the Lowcountry

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