According to MedLinePlus, as many as half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease as it’s commonly known, occurs when our bodies don’t build new bone as fast as they remove old bone.
This causes the bones to become weak and brittle and more likely to break (definition from WebMd). And while we know how important it is to consume adequate calcium and vitamin D earlier in life, there are also some risk factors that may predispose us to the disease.
An article on WebMd.com (“Your Risk for Osteoporosis and Bone Fractures”) lists 10 risk factors for developing the disease:
- Early menopause and no use of supplemental estrogen
- Family history of a hip fracture or osteoporosis
- History of anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder, or low body weight
- Hormone treatment for prostate cancer
- Older age
- Past bone fractures
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), some digestive illnesses, and certain other diseases
- Steroid medicine use for a long time (for asthma or other conditions)
- Three or more alcoholic drinks per day
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends a bone density test for:
- Women over the age of 65
- Men over the age of 70
- Women and men over the age of 50 with risk factors.
A bone density test can detect bone loss before a fracture occurs. But what if a fracture has already occurred? Osteoporosis related fractures most commonly occur in the wrist, hip, or spine, and may be what’s classified as a low trauma or fragility fracture. A fragility fracture is one that occurs due to a fall or bump that would not cause a break in a person with healthy bones.
In another article on WebMd (“Osteoporosis Bone Fractures: A Treatment Overview”) the author states that some fractures will heal on their own, but others will need the help of a specialist such as an orthopedic doctor, a physiatrist, a physical therapist, and/or an occupational therapist. The treatments received from these specialists may range from a splint or cast to surgery, and care after the bone has healed to help resume regular activities.
The author also recommends speaking with a doctor about pain management, including a review of all medicines currently being used to be sure nothing taken for the pain will cause dizziness and thus create a risk of falling.
A third article on WebMd offers some advice for helping a fracture to heal (“Easy Living Tips After a Fracture”). This includes such things as:
- Staying as active as possible
- Making your home safer by rearranging furniture as needed, securing loose rugs, and keeping a phone nearby
- Asking for help from friends and family for such things as grocery shopping, and choose foods that require little preparation such as frozen or microwavable dinners
- Be sure to be safe in the bathtub by using a non-slip rubber mat and a long handled sponge to reach lower legs, feet, and back.
It used to be thought that osteoporosis was an inevitable part of aging. But now we know that we can help lower our risk by doing things like eating right, not smoking, and using alcohol in moderation. There are also a variety of treatments available and the after care has evolved as we’ve learned more about the disease. It’s no longer a given, but if it does occur it can be treated.
Written by: Tricia Doane, FizzNiche Staff Writer
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