How dense are you?

How dense are you?

Osteoporosis – everyone’s heard of it, knows somebody with it, and knows that they don’t want it; but do we actually know what it is or what can be done about it? With October 20th being World Osteoporosis Day, we wanted to draw attention to this condition and provide information that will keep our patients informed about all things bone-density related.

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects both men and women, characterized by low bone mass/density and deterioration of bone tissue.

Often times, there is no singular cause of this disease, but rather a constellation of contributors, which include:

  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid medications
  • Lack of necessary vitamins and minerals including Vitamin D and Calcium
  • Pre-existing medical conditions which interfere with nutrient absorption or that cause secondary osteoporosis

With low bone density, there is an increase in bone fragility, and in turn, increased risk of bone fracture; worldwide, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture, often times with very trivial movements or mechanisms. Osteoporotic fractures can prove to be especially costly, namely fractures of the hip/pelvis, as 28% of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture will die within the following year. Hips are not the only site for fractures to occur, as the wrist, spine and shoulder are also commonly associated with low-density breaks.

Osteoporosis also proves to be quite costly on the healthcare system, especially for a condition in which can be categorized as preventable. Data from 2010 reports that the overall yearly costs of treating osteoporosis and subsequent fractures was over $2.3 billion, which includes the acute care costs, outpatient care, medications, and indirect costs; this number rises to $3.9 billion if the cost of living in long-term health facilities are included.

The first step in knowing whether you have osteoporosis or not is knowing the risk factors for the disease. These include:

  • Being over the age of 65
  • Having broken a bone from a simple fall or bump after the age of 40
  • Maternal or paternal history of hip fracture
  • Being a smoker or having more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day
  • Being on steroid medications for a long duration
  • Having a pre-existing medical condition
  • Being post-menopausal
  • Having low body weight, rapid loss of height, or having abnormal curvatures of any bones

Based upon the above factors, if you feel as though you are at risk for having or developing osteoporosis, you should consult with your family doctor and have a DEXA scan performed to measure your bone mineral density.  As is the case with most conditions, being proactive is always better than being reactive, and prevention reigns supreme. Making suitable nutritional adjustments, introducing adequate supplementation, and initiating a safe, prescribed exercise program can go a long way to reducing your risk for this disease. If you have any questions about this condition or any of the measures used to combat it, your PhysioPlus team is always here to answer them!