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Bones are the framework for your body, which is why keeping your bones healthy is a must.  Studies have shown that one in two women will eventually break a major bone in their body due to Osteoporosis. Genetics and age play a huge role in a woman’s risk factor for getting osteoporosis.  Post-menopausal women that have a low body weight, especially Asian and Caucasian women, are at the highest risk.

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What is it?

Osteoporosis is a condition of decreased bone mass. This leads to fragile bones which are at an increased risk for fractures. More than 40 million Americans have Osteoporosis or low bone mass and are therefore at increased risk for fracturing. At age 50, the lifetime risk of developing fractures is about 39% for women and 13% for men.  Hip fractures are the most serious complication of Osteoporosis. The death rate during the first year after hip fracture is more than 30% for men and about 17% for women.  Half of the patients who could walk independently previously are unable to do so 1 year after a hip fracture. More than half of survivors are unable to return to independent living; many require a long-term nursing care.

A simple radiograph called a “DEXA” or bone density test, which takes just 10 to 15 minutes, can detect Osteoporosis. An individual’s bone mineral density is expressed as a T score that compares the density with the mean value for young normal persons and expresses the difference as a standard deviation score. Osteoporosis is defined as a T score of -2.5 or below in the spine or hip. Yet despite a relatively easy screening test, less than a third of cases of Osteoporosis are diagnosed.

Who should undergo screening for Osteoporosis?

All women older than 65 and men older than 70 should undergo screening as age alone is an independent risk factor. Also, younger individuals with other risk factors for Osteoporosis or a history of a non-traumatic fracture should also be screened. Multiple treatment options exist for those who are diagnosed. It is recommended to obtain a baseline DEXA scan for individuals at risk and to repeat one every two years using the same machine if possible for screening and monitoring of treatment.

What measures can be taken to prevent bone loss?

A balanced diet throughout your life is important for bone health. Adequate calcium and Vitamin D intake through diet and supplements is a fundamental part of prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol intake should be avoided because alcohol has detrimental effects on fracture risk. One should limit alcohol to no more than 2 servings per day. Patients should also limit their caffeine intake to less than 1-2 servings per day. Avoidance or cessation of smoking is advised. Most importantly, patients should maintain an active lifestyle including weight bearing exercises for at least thirty minutes daily. An initial visit with a physical therapist may help clarify what exercises are safe and unsafe to do.

Just make sure you don’t overdue the Vitamin D. While it’s rare to have Vitamin D toxicity, it can be very serious. The most common consequence of Vitamin D toxicity is elevated calcium levels in your blood. This could lead to anorexia, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and even kidney stones. There is a blood test that can check your level of Vitamin D, so patients who are on supplements should have this checked regularly by your doctor.

If you don’t like milk or are lactose-intolerant, there are some other options to get your daily intake of Vitamin D. You can get it from fortified orange juice, certain cereals, salmon and kale, just to name a few.

To schedule an appointment with one of our Rheumatologists, please call (225)246-9240.