January 15, 2021 by John Fernandez
Osteoporosis: Getting Screened Can Help You Prevent Fractures
With an estimated three million baby boomers reaching retirement age every year, an increase in the occurrence of osteoporosis can be expected, according to U.S. public health officials. In the next decade, half of all U.S. adults over 50 are expected to have, or be at risk of developing, osteoporosis of the hip, while more people will be at risk of the disease at any area in the skeleton.
An estimated one in three women, and one in five men over the age of 50 will be affected by osteoporosis in their lifetimes, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. (There’s a quick and painless scan to measure your risk of low bone mass. See below if you’re a candidate.)
About 53 million people in the United States already have osteoporosis, or are at high risk, because of low bone mass. The most serious risk associated with low bone mass or density is being more susceptible to bone fractures, which can occur when doing everyday chores or routines, such as “picking up a gallon of milk,” said Nathalie Regalado, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care.
Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken, become brittle and fracture. An aging population, together with other risk factors, including poor dietary and exercise habits, are causing the numbers of adults with the disease to rise.
“If someone does something that shouldn’t cause a fracture in anyone else, but it did cause a fracture, then they should come in and be evaluated for osteoporosis,” says Dr. Regalado. “The end goal is to prevent hip fractures, which can be very serious … and prevent all other fractures.”
The condition that precedes osteoporosis, osteopenia (low bone mass), is not just a problem for older adults past retirement age. It is a condition that can start for many adults in their 50s and 60s. The good news: osteopenia — or its development into osteoporosis — is not inevitable. Diet, exercise and sometimes medication can help keep a person’s bones dense and strong for many years.
Family History and Other Risk Factors
Susceptibility to osteoporosis and fractures appears to be, in part, hereditary. People whose parents have a history of fractures also tend to have reduced bone mass and an increased risk for fractures. Hormone deficiencies can be a risk factor for osteoporosis as well. Low estrogen levels in women after menopause and low testosterone levels in men also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
From childhood into old age, a diet low in calcium and vitamin D can increase your risk of osteoporosis. More than 99 percent of body calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. This “good” calcium, in combination with Vitamin D, is essential for proper bone mass, helping prevent osteoporosis. Lifestyle factors that can contribute to osteopenia and later, osteoporosis, includes a lack of calcium or vitamin D, not enough exercise (especially strength training), smoking and too much alcohol.
When Should You Be Screened?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in primary care and prevention, recommends that all women age 65 and older be screened for osteoporosis. The task force also recommends screening for women under the age of 65 who are at high risk for fractures. Men over the age 65 who are at high risk for fractures should talk to their doctor about screening. If you are over 50 and have broken a bone, you may have osteoporosis or be at increased risk for the disease.
“Even if people don’t have symptoms, they should be evaluated for osteoporosis after the age of 65,” says Dr. Regalado, “Because we’re trying to get ahead of the game and prevent fractures.”
Are You a Candidate for a Scan to Measure Low Bone Mass?
Take charge of your bone health with a free osteoporosis heel scan. It’s a quick, painless scan to measure your risk of low bone mass. You’re a candidate if you:
- Are a woman over age 30 or a man over age 50.
- Have a family history of osteoporosis or osteopenia.
- Have certain diseases or take certain medications (see website for details).
- Live an inactive lifestyle.
- Are small or thin.
- Have an unhealthy diet.
Offer valid April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2020, at selected Baptist Health Medical Plazas in Miami-Dade and Broward. To make a same-day appointment or for more information, call 786-573-6000, email Screenings@BaptistHealth.net or visit BaptistHealth.net/OsteoScreening.