May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month, and our team at Grand Junction Diagnostics and Mammography is here to help inform and educate our patients about the risk factors of osteoporosis and how bone density screening can help.
People tend to think that bones are static and unchanging, but the truth is that bones are in constant flux. Even as you read this sentence, specialized cells in your body are busy destroying old bits of bone and replacing them with new bone. Unfortunately, as people age, they often lose bone more quickly than they can replace it, so their bones can become porous and brittle. The inside of healthy bone looks like a sponge. This area is called trabecular bone. An outer shell of dense bone wraps around the spongy bone. This hard shell is called cortical bone. When osteoporosis occurs, the “holes” in the “sponge” grow larger and more numerous, which weakens the inside of the bone.
If left unchecked, this bone loss can lead to a disorder called osteoporosis, defined as reduced bone mass and poor bone quality. The disorder makes bones weak and prone to fracture. People who have osteoporosis have bones that can break with even the mildest impact. For example, people with osteoporosis can break a bone just from a minor fall, such as tripping on a loose rug in the living room.
Melissa Maybury of Grand Junction Diagnostics says, “Over 10 million men and women in America have Osteoporosis, and another 30 million have low bone mass.”
Osteoporosis occurs in both women and men, however women are four times more likely to develop the disease. After age 50, one in two women and one in four men will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetimes. Another 30% have low bone density that puts them at risk of developing osteoporosis. This condition is called osteopenia.
Each year in the United States, osteoporosis leads to approximately 2.0 million fractures, including:
- 550,000 fractures of the vertebrae, the bones in the spine
- 300,000 hip fractures
- 400,000 wrist fractures
- 10,000 fractures of other parts of the body
The problem is that osteoporosis does not cause any symptoms, so people do not usually know they have the condition until they break a bone unexpectedly. That’s where bone density tests come in.
Bone density testing is recommended for people who have been through menopause and are at least 65 years old. In addition, there are certain characteristics that put people at higher risk for fracture, so health care providers sometimes recommend testing in people younger than 65 years who have one or more risk factors.
Risk factors for fracture – Factors that increase a person’s risk of fracture and may lead to earlier bone density testing include:
- Cigarette smoking
- long-term use of steroid (glucocorticoid) medications such as prednisone
- low body weight (less than 127 lbs or 58 kg)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- History of a non-traumatic or low trauma bone fracture in self or parents (eg, breaking a bone after falling from standing height or less)
- Excessive alcohol consumption (three or more servings a day)
- A disorder strongly associated with osteoporosis, such as diabetes, untreated hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, early menopause, chronic malnutrition or malabsorption, or chronic liver disease
If it turns out that you have osteoporosis or are at risk for it (known as low bone mass orosteopenia), you can take steps to prevent fractures.
“It is important to maintain a healthy diet and stay active with exercises that are weight bearing, like walking.” Melissa Maybury says.
- Eat foods that support bone health. Get enough calcium, vitamin D, and protein each day. Low-fat dairy; leafy green vegetables; fish; and fortified juices, milk, and grains are good sources of calcium. If your vitamin D level is low, talk with your doctor about taking a supplement.
- Get active. Choose weight-bearing exercise, such as strength training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, and dancing. This type of physical activity can help build and strengthen your bones.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk of weakened bones.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can harm your bones. Drink in moderation or not at all.
As Your Healthcare Destination, Primary Care Partners is here for you. If you believe you may be at risk for osteoporosis or orosteopenia, Call Grand Junction Diagnostics at (970) 241-6014 to see if you can be scheduled for a bone density screening.