The Brittle Bones That Compromise Your Life
Millions are suffering a silent and scary health risk
Ever break a bone — from a fall, an accident, or something else? Chances are your physicians didn’t check to see why it happened.
Millions of Americans have osteoporosis, a condition characterized by fragile bones and an increased susceptibility to fracture — yet they have no idea of this. The lack of awareness, some health officials believe, could put this nation at risk for a “fracture tsunami” — the impact of which will be felt in the near future on both a public health and socioeconomic level.
Fewer than half of seniors who survive a hip fracture will walk unaided again.
“Osteoporosis is often called a ‘silent disease,’ since it often progresses without any symptoms until a fracture occurs or one or more vertebrae [bones in the spine] collapse,” said Dr. Rahil Bandukwala, a board-certified endocrinologist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California.
When a fracture occurs, every physician should consider ordering a bone density test to diagnose osteoporosis, Bandukwala told LifeZette.
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of calcium and Vitamin D
- History of fracture as an adult
- Cigarette smoking
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Low body weight
- Family history
This is important: Approximately 80 percent of those who have already suffered a broken bone due to osteoporosis remain unprotected against the risk of further disabling fractures, according to a new report from the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) on World Osteoporosis Day. These people are unaware they have a problem and X-rays only pick up the most severe cases.
“This report is a necessary and urgent call to action,” said report co-author Eugene McCloskey, director of the MRC ARUK Centre for Integrated Research in Musculoskeletal Aging at Northern General Hospital, in Sheffield, United Kingdom, in a statement.
The result of fragility fractures can be profoundly debilitating. Chronic pain and disability can lead to reduced mobility and quality of life, McCloskey added. Fewer than half of seniors who survive a hip fracture will walk unaided again, and up to 20 percent will become residents of care homes in the year after the fracture. Progressive osteoporosis also often leads to premature death.
It is estimated that 54 million Americans age 50 and older are impacted by osteoporosis and low bone mass — so about half the population in this age group are affected.
It is also predicted that by the year 2020, this number will grow to 64 million and by 2030, to 71 million. “It is critically important to address the issue of prevention at an earlier age. In my practice, contributing issues seem to be our sedentary lifestyle, increasing recognition of vitamin D deficiency, and the fact that both men and women are living longer,” Bandukwala said.
The key piece of advice, Bandukwala said, is that people are never too young or too old to protect their bones. "This includes a well-balanced diet, working on calcium intake and vitamin D supplementation before the age of 50, and after the age of 50 working on balance to avoid falls in the first place."
Avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol intake are two additional steps to take. People should also talk to their doctors about healthy lifestyle practices, and about weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise regimens.