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Are you at risk for osteoporosis?

Published in Orthopedics, Women's Services, Senior Services Author: Denise Getting, RN, BSN

What is osteoporosis? Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone.” In osteoporosis, bones become brittle, weak and are more likely to break. It’s a silent disease that is under recognized and under treated in both men and women. Since there are no symptoms, usually the first time you realize you have osteoporosis is after a fracture. Someone with osteoporosis can break a bone from a minor fall, bumping into furniture or even sneezing.

Stats for women

  • Osteoporosis affects eight million American women.
  • One in two women older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
  • The chance of breaking bones is greater than a woman’s likelihood of having a heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
  • The chance goes up the most right after menopause. Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass five to seven years after menopause.
  • Osteoporosis is more common in Caucasian and Asian women.

Stats for men

  • Osteoporosis affects two million American men.
  • One in four men older than 50 will break a bone from osteoporosis.
  • Men in their 50s do not experience the rapid loss of bone mass that women do in the years following menopause. But by age 65 or 70, men and women are losing bone mass at the same rate and the absorption of calcium decreases in both sexes.
  • For men, having an osteoporosis-related fracture is greater than the likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

Broken bones are costly
Each year, two million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis including 350,000 hip fractures. Only 25 percent of hip fracture patients will make a full recovery. Forty percent of hip fracture patients will require nursing home admission. Fifty percent will be dependent upon a cane or a walker — 20 percent will die within one year of the fall.

For adults age 50 and over, adequate calcium and Vitamin D along with regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises actually can increase bone strength. If you smoke, quit. If you drink alcohol, don’t have more than two to three drinks per day. Talk to your health care provider about your risks for osteoporosis and whether you need dietary supplements.