Breaking Down Osteoporosis
October 20th is World Osteoporosis Day. What is osteoporosis- let’s break this down! (wink wink)
Osteoporosis (porous bones) is a progressive condition where your bones become weak and more likely to break or fracture. Sadly, there are often no warning signs to help early detection of low bone density.
Menopause is the most common cause of osteoporosis. Research indicates that up to 20% of bone loss can happen during the menopausal stages, and approximately 1 in 10 women over 60 are affected by osteoporosis. During our menopausal years, we experience fluctuating estrogen levels. As the ovaries no longer produce estradiol, those estradiol levels drop, and our bones may become weaker, resulting in bone loss. This helps explain why osteoporosis affects more women than men.
Preventing bone loss is an essential concern for women. Speak with your menopause specialist about the effects of estrogen loss on your bones. If you don’t have one, here are some tips on how to find one: Tips on How to Find a Menopause Specialist.
The ‘Gold Standard’ for bone mineral density testing is the Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA or DXA) scan. A DEXA scan can monitor and diagnose osteopenia or osteoporosis by calculating how dense your bones are. It is simple, quick, and noninvasive. Depending on the results of your DEXA, you may want to find a bone specialist for further evaluation.
Osteopenia describes a less severe condition of weaker bones. A score above -1 means your bone density is considered normal. But if you have a score between -1 and -2.5, it means you have osteopenia. And if your score is below -2.5, you have osteoporosis.
If you get a diagnosis of osteopenia, it is best to understand what new protocols you can add to your health regime to help ensure that you do not progress to a complete diagnosis of osteoporosis. According to WebMD, some lifestyle causes may include an unhealthy diet, eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia, lack of calcium or vitamin D, insufficient exercise and strength training, smoking, and too much alcohol.
If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, take a moment to read this information sheet from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The foundation stresses that osteoporosis is manageable. Here are some of their key takeaways:
- Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help slow or stop the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures.
- About half of osteoporosis-related repeat fractures can be prevented with appropriate treatment.
- A bone density test (DEXA) is the best way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine a treatment plan. If your T-score is -2.5 or lower, indicating that you have osteoporosis or other significant risk factors for breaking a bone, talk to your healthcare provider about starting an osteoporosis treatment plan that includes taking osteoporosis medicine.
- When choosing an osteoporosis medication, discuss the risks and benefits of all treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine which treatment plan is best for you. (Certain medications prevent or treat bone loss, others may even help you rebuild bone density.)
- For your medicine to work, it’s essential to exercise regularly and make sure you get the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D every day from foods and/or supplements. (Speak to your specialist about your diet and whether you need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements. Most of us do need to supplement!)
- Once you start taking an osteoporosis medicine, your bone density test by central DEXA should be repeated at least every two years to monitor its effects. After starting a new osteoporosis medicine, many healthcare providers will repeat a bone density test after one year.
If you are perimenopausal or post-menopausal, it is essential to ensure you’re doing the appropriate exercises to strengthen your bones and improve your balance. I stopped riding my bike each day and switched to walking, low-impact aerobics & even some stair climbing for my bone health. In addition, I do strength-training exercises twice a week.
HealthyWomen.org, the nation’s leading independent nonprofit health resource for women, is proud to announce the launch of #YesYouScan! This campaign raises awareness of the importance of preventative DEXA bone screenings. As discussed above, bone density tests effectively predict future risk. It is important to note that fractures are one of the 26 preventive screenings covered by the Affordable Care Act. However, testing has steadily declined since 2007, when cuts in Medicare Part B plans for scans done in a healthcare provider’s office took effect. The Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation has a direct link where women can contact their congressional representatives to ask for legislation that would increase access and affordability for DEXA scans.
Since early detection of low bone density can spare millions from unnecessary fractures, pain, disability, and even death, please join the #YesYouScan! Campaign and share this information with your sisterhood.
Be proactive about your bone health!
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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.
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