May is National Osteoporosis Month.
Apr 27, 2022
May is National Osteoporosis Month. Both women and men can have osteoporosis without any signs or symptoms. The disease, which is not a normal part of aging, is serious, causing broken bones, pain, suffering and life-altering loss of mobility — yet it is treatable and even preventable.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure.
"When you have osteoporosis, your bones become weak and are more likely to break. Because it is a disease that can be prevented and treated, an early diagnosis can make a difference," states the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).
Approximately half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. Just as disheartening, each year about one-third of adults in the U.S. age 65 and older will fall. Many of these falls will result in broken bones.
Can Osteoporosis Be Prevented?
Bone mass acquired during youth is an important determinant of the risk of osteoporotic fracture during later life. The higher the peak bone mass, the lower the risk of osteoporosis.
Once peak bone mass has been reached, it is maintained by a process called remodeling. This is a continuous process in which old bone is removed (resorption) and new bone is created (formation). The renewal of bone is responsible for bone strength throughout life.
During childhood and the beginning of adulthood, bone formation is more important than bone resorption. Later in life, however, the rate of bone resorption is greater than the rate of bone formation and results in net bone loss – a thinning of your bones.
Any factor which causes a higher rate of bone remodeling will ultimately lead to a more rapid loss of bone mass and more fragile bones. The nutritional and lifestyle advice for building strong bones in youth is just as applicable to adults to. Adults should:
- Ensure a nutritious diet and adequate calcium intake.
- Avoid under-nutrition, particularly the effects of severe weight-loss diets and eating disorders
- Maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D
- Participate in regular weight-bearing activity and exercise
- Avoid smoking and second-hand smoking
- Avoid heavy drinking
Is there an exam that can measure bone density?
To diagnose osteoporosis, you can protect your bone health at any age by having a bone density scan. This test, (also called a DEXA scan) is a specialized x-ray exam that can detect low bone mass and measure bone mineral density. "A bone density test is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs," states the NOF.
During a bone density scan, measurements are taken at both hips and the spine. The exam is pain free with minimal preparation, and takes less than 30 minutes.
After the bone density scan, a board-certified radiologist (medical doctor) reviews the measurements and readings. Your readings will be compared and scored to reference readings taken from adults of your gender while at their peak bone mass. This score indicates the risk of fracture.
Your healthcare provider can offer advice about diet, lifestyle and medication based on your bone density score. Treatments are available to increase your bone density and slow the rate of loss.
Bone density scans are available at our Burnsville location. A referral from your healthcare provider is necessary to schedule.