By Julia Eldred, Media & Communications Assistant
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become weak and brittle due to low bone mass and loss of bone tissue. As the disease progresses bones are easily susceptible to fractures. This is especially common in the hip and wrist bones, but also vertebrae in the spine. A bone fracture can occur as the result of a fall, but can be the consequence of a simple cough, sneeze, or even just bending the wrong way.
How do you know if you have Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is characterized as a silent disease, and typically progresses asymptomatically. Many people do not know they are affected until they have broken or fractured a bone. If the disease is present, but undiagnosed, telltale signs include back or neck pain, stooped posture and loss of height. Generally, osteoporosis is diagnosed with a bone mineral density (BMD) test. BMD measures the density of the bones and confirms an osteoporosis diagnosis. Screening establishes the best course of prevention and/or treatment.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recently released figures that indicate the widespread prevalence of the disease—nearly 55 million American adults over the age of 50 are affected by osteoporosis and low bone mass. Additional data suggests that more than ½ of the total U.S. adult population is currently affected by osteoporosis, or suffers from low bone mass, a preliminary symptom of the disease. Gender, ethnicity, family history and bone structure in regards to body frame/type are among the most common factors for determining who is most vulnerable. However, lifestyle habits, use of certain medications and illnesses like arthritis, thyroid disease and others are risk factors as well.
The unfortunate truth is that there is no cure for osteoporosis, but there are steps you can take to prevent, slow or stop its progress. This is why prevention and early detection are so important. Osteoporosis can be prevented by a combination of diet and exercise. Vital nutrients like vitamin D and calcium are essential to better bone health, as well as regular exercise, like weight-resistance, and healthy lifestyle habits. Bone density testing is highly recommended for women 65 and older, as well as younger women who carry more risk factors. However, for a male or female who has multiple risk factors, early screening is equally important.
Care for a Patient with Osteoporosis
There are a variety of medications used to slow down or stop bone loss and increase bone density. Hormone therapy for women is also a treatment option. Nutrition plays a significant role in treating and controlling osteoporosis. Getting the right balance of nutrients is essential to strong, healthy bones. Calcium and Vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for people with osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is a fundamental component of preventing and treating the disease as well. Not only does it increase bone strength, it helps improve balance, posture and coordination. Of course, any exercise regime should be recommended and approved by a doctor.
People living with osteoporosis need to be aware of any physical changes that may affect their balance or ability to walk. This may mean making modifications to the home in order to make it safer. It might be helpful to install rails in the bathroom and use slip-resistant pads in the shower or tub. Making sure hardwood floors are not slippery and that carpets have skid-proof backing is important for safety, too. Overall, keeping a home free of clutter and unnecessary furniture is critical to creating a safe environment for people with osteoporosis.
Care Advantage’s multi-disciplinary team is skilled in the area of osteoporosis and bone health. Our team can help most patients avoid injuries and complications stemming from osteoporosis by educating them on safety and diet. We will also work together to establish fall reduction strategies and appropriate exercise routines. For more information on Care Advantage’s osteoporosis program, contact us today.