Updated at end of story, Thursday, May 28:
May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, a fact I only learned about late last week. And while the month is nearly over, awareness of this insidious, invisible, potentially devastating and even deadly disease is important all year ’round, not just in May.
Your bones are alive. A healthy body replaces dying bone tissue with new, strong, healthy bone tissue. But osteoporosis causes the bones to lose tissue faster than the body can replace it. The resulting brittle, lattice-like bone structure breaks easily. Even something as simple and everyday as bending over or coughing can cause an osteoporotic fracture.
A broken bone is difficult for anyone. But for the elderly or those with compromised health, it can mean catastrophe: loss of independence, permanent disability, or even death. The most common fractures occur in the hips, wrists, and spine.
According to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), about 4.5 million women and a little over a million men over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. It’s a “silent” disease; there are no symptoms. Most people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. You’re at higher risk of osteoporosis if:
- you’re of older age (over 30, but more commonly over 50);
- you’re female;
- you have a non-Hispanic white or Asian ethnic background;
- you have lowered sex hormone levels (mainly estrogen loss during menopause and after);
- you have a small bone structure;
- you have a family history of osteoporosis;
- you have inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid disease, ankylosing spondylitis, etc.);
- you take certain medications, such as corticosteroids;
- you smoke cigarettes
- you drink alcohol to excess. More risk factors can be found here.
There are some pro-active and simple steps you can take to avoid osteoporosis, or to treat it if you already have it:
- If you smoke, stop. Smoking hastens bone loss.
- Limit alcohol to three or fewer drinks per day.
- make sure you’re getting enough Vit. D from your diet, sun exposure (but be wary of sunburn) or from supplements. Vit. D works in tandem with calcium throughout the body in many different ways, including building healthy bone tissue.
- Do weight-bearing exercise regularly. It can be as simple as brisk walking for a half hour a day, five days a week, or doing gentle weight training or resistance exercises for the same amount of time. Many people mix them: walking one day, exercising the next, or 15 minutes of one, then 15 minutes of the other each day. Exercise is vital to build and strengthen bone tissue and to build and strengthen the muscles that support the joints and bones. Note: Tai Chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise for osteoporosis. They strengthen muscles and bone, and they improve your balance, making falls much less likely.
Once osteoporosis is diagnosed, treatment is available in the form of medications, too. Some, called bisphosphonates, slow bone loss. They include such well-known drugs as Fosamax and Boniva. Other drugs may include Calcitonin or selective hormone replacement therapy.
Rheumatoid disease can cause changes in the bones that can make osteoporosis more likely to occur. It’s smart to have your bones scanned to determine you bone mineral density, or BMD, According to the ACR, “dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (referred to as DXA or DEXA and pronounced ‘dex-uh’) is the best current test to measure BMD. The test is quick and painless. It is similar to an X-ray, but uses much less radiation.”
Unfortunately, osteoporosis can sometimes lead to the need for knee or hip replacements. The American Recall Center has asked me to let you know that one option for knee replacements, the Zimmer Persona Tibial Plate, has been recalled due to issues that have forced some people back into surgery. To learn more about this, visit http://www.recallcenter.com/zimmer-persona-knee-replacement/ **
For further information, visit the ACR’s osteoporosis web page, or see the National Institutes of Health’s RA/Osteoporosis web page,
**UPDATE: With the unfortunate weakening of the bones, sometimes osteoporosis can lead to knee or hip replacements. Be sure to always treat any surgery with care and ask appropriate questions. Do your research on the device that’s going to be put in. There has been a few recalls on these, the Zimmer persona knee recall being one for the loosening of the tibial plate. Mishaps like these can happen, which is why it’s important to get educated.