Join Jennifer Kelly, MD, on Wednesday, April 11, 6 – 7:00 pm in the Davis Auditorium at the UVM Medical Center for her free class “No Bones About It – What’s New in Osteoporosis Treatment and Management.” Registration is required. To register, contact Kristine Buck at Kristine.Buck@UVMHealth.org, or register online by clicking here.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis is quite common. About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for fracture. Studies suggest that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Our goal is identify who is at risk before a fracture happens so we can prevent one from happening. Osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until someone has a fracture, which makes it very important to discover it early.
Aside from being very painful, bone fractures can be quite serious, particularly in older people. Osteoporotic bone fractures are most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist, but other bones can break too. Bone fractures of the spine can lead to height loss and a stooped or hunched posture. Also, fractures may limit mobility and independence, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Up to 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year. Many patients require long term nursing care.
Osteoporosis: Who Should Be Screened?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends screening for all women over age 65 and all men over age 70 through a bone density test (DXA).
A DXA test measures bone density at different parts of the body, usually the spine and hips. This test is safe and painless and provides important information about bone health. People over age 50, who have other risk factors for bone loss, should have a screening. These risk factors could include certain medical conditions or medication use that can cause bone loss.
How Can Fractures Be Prevented?
It is important for people to take in adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D daily between their diet and supplements. Performing regular weight-bearing activity and being careful not to fall is helpful for bone health. Smoking and excessive alcohol are risk factors. Avoid them if possible.
For people with osteoporosis or at high risk for fracture, there are medications that can help to decrease fracture risk and increase bone density. Despite fears some people have about rare side effects, these medications are quite safe and effective. talk to your doctor about medication to help prevent a potentially serious fracture.
Jennifer Kelly, MD, is director of the Osteoporosis Program at UVM Medical Center and an associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM.