Osteoporosis Major Health Problem Among Aging Adults
Nearly one in two women and one in five men 65 years of age and older sustain bone fractures caused by osteoporosis, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Osteoporosis is a gradual thinning and weakening of bones, which leads to bone fractures, especially in the hip, back, or wrist. Often referred to as a “silent disease,” many women and men are unlikely to find out they have osteoporosis until they suffer a painful fracture. The most serious and debilitating osteoporotic fracture is a hip fracture. Most people who experience a hip fracture and previously lived independently require help from their family or home care. Anyone who experiences a hip fracture will require walking aids for several months, and nearly half permanently need canes or walkers to move around their home or outdoors.
Orthopaedic surgeon, John Leupold, M.D. of Northwest Iowa Bone, Joint & Sports Surgeons, said, “Around the age of 30, bones reach their peak strength and then become weaker with age. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become weak to the point of breaking. The weakening may be due to aging or caused by other factors. The unfortunate thing is symptoms of osteoporosis don’t occur until a lot of bone strength is already lost.”
Lakes Regional Healthcare (LRH) recently purchased a new DEXA Scan machine to help people detect if they have or are at risk for having osteoporosis. Results of bone density exams can help doctors detect and treat osteoporosis by comparing bone density to that of a “young adult” at peak bone strength, also known as a T-score. The T-score, combined with other risk factors, helps estimate the risk of a hip fracture or other major osteoporosis-related fractures, and what action to take to prevent further bone loss and possible fractures.
A bone density exam is painless and takes about 10 minutes to complete. “You will stay in your normal clothing in most cases, except with metal or thick plastic buttons removed from the area being examined. We enter your name, age, height, weight, and ethnicity into a computer for comparing your results to a normal reference group,” said LRH Radiology Manager, Tracy Evans. “You lie on your back on a large table that’s padded and comfortable. We position your arms and legs for the test and you just lie still and breathe normally.”
Bone density measures the amount of bone mineral density by using small amounts of x-ray to produce images of the spine, hip, or even the whole body. Evans said, “The spine and hip are measured because that’s where most fractures related to osteoporosis occur.”
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
• Advanced age
• Early menopause
• A diet low in calcium
• A history of bone fracture
• Lack of exercise
• A small, thin frame
• Alcohol and tobacco use
• A family history of osteoporosis
• Removal of the ovaries
Those interested in more information are encouraged to talk to their local healthcare provider for a referral to Lakes Regional Healthcare to receive a bone mineral density test.