44 million Americans are at risk of developing osteoporosis, and 80% of those individuals are women. Osteoporosis is known as the “silent stalker” because of its unnoticed symptoms – classified by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. Osteoporosis happens slowly, over years and is generally recognized when a slip or fall turns into a painful event due to bone fragility.
A combination of genetic, dietary, hormonal, age-related and lifestyle factors all contribute to this condition. Women, especially over the age of 50, are the most frequent sufferers of the disease. This is due in part to the slowing of estrogen during menopause. Although there is no cure for osteoporosis there are ways to diagnose the early stages, and be knowledgeable about preventative measures and effective treatment options.
To diagnose osteoporosis, Covenant HealthCare offers Bone Density Testing at both our Mackinaw campus and State Street location. Bone Density Testing measures the mineral content and density of a person’s bones. The test involves extremely small amounts of radiation, which determine the bone density of the spine, hip, finger, wrist, or heel. The Bone Density Test is simple, safe and painless – and generally takes only a few minutes. Once the density has been measured, treatment options can be discussed.
A variety of factors can affect your chances of developing osteoporosis. The good news is that you can control some of them. Even though you can’t change your genes, you can still lower your risk with attention to certain lifestyle changes that will help build and maintain bone mass. The earlier you begin to adjust your lifestyle, the longer you can continue to lower your risks. Controllable factors include:
- Engage in regular exercise such as walking
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
- No smoking
While some factors are not controllable, it is still helpful to be aware of them so that you can be more active in controlling the above noted factors. Uncontrollable risk factors include:
- Age – individuals 50 years and older are at a higher risk
- Early Menopause – Estrogen deficiency in women who experience menopause before age 45, either naturally or resulting from surgical removal of the ovaries, are at a higher risk
- Ethnic Heritage – White and Asian women are typically at highest risk. African-American and Hispanic women are at a lower, but still significant risk. Men and women of other ethnic backgrounds can also develop osteoporosis
- Growth hormone deficiency in children and youth
- Low body weight
- Prolonged use of some medications such as excessive thyroid hormone, some anti-seizure medications and glucocorticoids
- Small bone structure
By the age of 20, women have already developed 98% of their skeletal mass. So it’s important to take responsibility for the formation of your bone structure during early childhood and adolescent life.
You can develop prevention habits to combat osteoporosis, such as:
- Get adequate amounts of calcium intake to increase bone mass, improve bone strength during growth and slow bone loss in postmenopausal women.
- Integrate vitamin D supplements into your daily diet to help the digestive system absorb calcium. Without it, the digestive system will take calcium from your bones.
- Try weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging or biking, to build and maintain bone mass and muscle. Just 30 minutes of exercise, 5 times a week will help reduce the risk of bone loss.
- Quit smoking. When you smoke, estrogen in your bloodstream lowers, weakening the bones.
Women over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis. Physicians recommend women who have gone through menopause get measured for bone mass, especially if other risk factors for osteoporosis. While routine x-rays cannot detect osteoporosis until it is quite advanced, we provide other methods such as a Bone Density Test and Ultrasound to make early detection possible.
- Bone Density Test
A Bone Density Test, offered at both the Covenant HealthCare Mackinaw and State Street locations, measures the mineral content and density of a person’s bones. Once the density has been measured, treatment to prevent further bone loss can be administered. The Bone Density Test involves extremely small amounts of radiation, which determine the bone density of the spine, hip, finger, wrist, or heel. Bone density tests are simple, safe, painless and generally take only a few minutes.
A newer technique for evaluating bone strength involves using Ultrasound. This method is generally used as a screening tool. Results from ultrasound may determine if a Bone Density Test is necessary.
We offer a variety of treatment options for osteoporosis. After diagnosis, our physicians will work closely with you to help determine which option is best you for.
- Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT) has been shown to reduce bone loss, and increase bone density in the spine and hip. When estrogen is taken alone, it can increase a woman's risk of developing cancer of the uterine lining (endometrial cancer). Physicians therefore recommend Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). This is formed by the combination of estrogen and progestrogen. Not only does HRT help maintain bone mass but it also increases bone mass and is great for cardiovascular health.
- Calcitonin, an alternative to HRT, is a hormone produced in the thyroid gland that affects calcium levels and bone growth. Calcitonin stops the breakdown and loss of bone mass. This treatment is intended to stop or prolong bone loss and lessen fractures. Calcitonin is available as an injection or nose inhalant.
- Fosamax (alendronate) works by decreasing activity in the cells that cause bone loss. Studies show that Fosamax can increase bone mass as much as 8% and reduce fractures as much as 30-40%.
- Actonel (risedronate) and Evista (raloxifene) are other drugs recently approved by the FDA as treatment for osteoporosis. Both drugs have been shown to reduce the risk for fracture of the spine.
- Sodium Fluoride, known for fighting dental cavities, has been shown to stimulate bone formation. Debate has speculated about fluoride though. Too much fluoride can cause digestive disorders and the structure of new bone was not as strong as normal bones.
Speak with your physician about your health concerns and what method of diagnosis and treatment is optimal for you.