The current state of our nation’s healthcare system is focused on disease treatment as a priority over disease prevention. This way of thinking is changing with time, as we become more aware of the pain, disability, and costs involved in many medical conditions (such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers) that can be avoided. This is also changing as we learn more about these disease processes, and their relation to the culture of America as well.
Osteoporosis is often an overlooked condition, and many times an afterthought in most healthcare settings. As with many other medical conditions, preventative measures can be taken to decrease the risk of this disease and the resultant complications from osteoporosis. Although post-menopausal women are most often affected, this is not a disease specific to them. Men and women of younger age are also affected. And in addition, prevention beginning at an early age is ideal. However, if you haven’t made your bone health a priority, it is not too late to start. Getting a handle on your health, and taking good care of your body is important for an active, independent, long life.
The story behind your bones
Bones are living tissue made up of calcium and other minerals. Bone tissue is replaced regularly in a process called bone turnover. Up until about age 30, a person normally builds more bone than he or she loses, resulting in stronger, denser bones and bones are at peak bone mass. At about age 40, bone cells start to die at a more rapid rate than new cells are produced. This starts a slow decline in bone mass, and may lead to the development of osteoporosis.
What it is, and how do you know you have osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disorder that occurs when bone tissue breaks down faster than it is replaced. This results in low bone mass and strength, which causes them to weaken and break easily (fracture). Ten million Americans have osteoporosis, while 34 million have low bone mass. Half of all women older than 50, and 1 in 4 men, will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Each year 1.5 million people break a bone due to osteoporosis. These fractures are usually precipitated by a fall just from standing height. Fractures in the hip, spine, and wrist are most common.
Breaking a bone is distressing and disabling. Bone fractures as a complication of osteoporosis lead to:
severe pain, which can sometimes be chronic
physical limitations/loss of independence
long term nursing home care
decreased quality of life
In particular, 1 in 5 older adults with a hip fracture will die within the year.
Osteoporosis is a silent disorder. Bone loss occurs without symptoms. Many do not even know they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. Early prevention and detection can slow and reverse the progress of osteoporosis. For women, taking care of others is often the priority, beginning with bearing children to caring for aging parents. However, now is really the time to not overlook your own health. If you are curious about your risk for osteoporosis and fracture, Blanda Orthopedics & Physical Therapy can screen and monitor osteoporosis, and will work with you to begin a prevention and treatment strategy.
Holly Lang, Certified Nurse Practitioner