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Millions of Americans could be at risk of developing osteoporosis

Find Out How To Get Tested And How To Protect Yourself From Fragility

Roughly ten million individuals over the age of 50 in the United States have osteoporosis of the hip , and by 2020, one in two Americans over the age of 50 is expected to have or be at risk of developing osteoporosis, according to Office of the Surgeon General.

With so many potentially fragile people, doctors try to diagnose the condition early so the patient has the best chance of maintaining decent bone mass.

“The point of trying to detect osteoporosis is to try and avoid fractures and in particular spinal fractures,” said James E. Bray, MD, CAQ, a sports medicine physician at the Scott & White Clinic – Georgetown. “Because both of those are related to significant morbidity and mortality.”

The World Health Organization has come up with ranking scales that are based on peak bone mass of a 35-year-old. That’s when bone mass is at its best.

“They have defined [osteoporosis] as 2.5 standard deviations below peak bone mass. That is what is known as a T-score,” Dr. Bray said. “If your T-score is below peak bone mass, then you are considered osteoporotic.”

While osteoporosis is usually diagnosed using the DEXA scan which measures bone density, some have said that a bone scan, where the patient is injected with dye to identify differing conditions of bone tissue, could also be helpful in diagnosis.

The NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center said that some doctors might order a bone scan to check for indications of new fractures or even other problems like bone lesions or certain types of cancer.

“The bone scan can show fractures that are from overuse, but not from trauma,” the doctor said. “The bone density (DEXA) scans are the most accurate test we’ve got to diagnose osteoporosis.”

And women 65 and older who are post-menopausal and have risk factors should get tested.

Risk factors:

  • Previous fractures
  • Previous steroid use
  • Low-body weight
  • Heavy drinkers
  • Certain endocrine diseases
  • Premature menopause

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, they are treatments available.

“Supplementing calcium and Vitamin D are important in both the prevention and treatment of bone mineral loss,” Dr. Bray said. “Weight-bearing exercises like walking or jogging are also beneficial.”

There are also medications available with a prescription from your doctor.

But if you want to stop osteoporosis before it starts, Dr. Bray said you want to maximize your peak bone density and maintain it.

“You want to do a lifetime of weight-bearing exercises, take calcium supplements or make sure you have adequate intake of calcium.”

The doctor also said it important to get enough calories and stop smoking. Both can cause decrease in bone density.

For more information about osteoporosis, visit the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center site.

Why do you think so many Americans have osteoporosis or are at risk for it?

About the author

Jessa McClure
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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Millions of Americans could be at risk of developing osteoporosis