While one in four women 65 years and older (one in two women over the age of 80) have osteoporosis, it is not a disease that only affects women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in ten men older than 80 also have some level of bone loss.
So what is osteoporosis? Experts state that the disease is the gradual weakening of the skeletal system and causes bones to become weak and brittle. This results in an increased risk of fractures from falls or mild stresses as the bones thin (a decrease of bone mass and density) and become depleted of bone calcium and protein.
To diagnose the disease, patients are screened using a dual X-ray absorptiometry, also called a DXA or DEXA. Doctors use the test to measure the bone mineral density (BMD) of the spine, hip or total body to help evaluate a person’s risk of fracture. The noninvasive scan is painless and usually takes only 10 or 20 minutes.
While there are risk factors associated with a greater likelihood of developing osteoporosis, some people develop it without any of them. Gender, family history, age, body size and ethnicity are risk factors you cannot change but there are other things you can change. Bone loss can be caused by a lifetime diet that is low in calcium and vitamin D as well as the long-term use of several medications such as glucocorticoids. Lack of exercise, cigarette smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol can also lead to osteoporosis.
Many doctors would like to see more adults tested at a younger age so if there are any signs of the disease, it can be identified early and treatment and lifestyle changes made years before bones become brittle. Right now bone mineral density screening is recommended for all postmenopausal women and for men age 50 years and older based on risk factors and on the advice of their health care provider.
This post is intended for informational purposes only. Please contact your health care provider with any questions or concerns you have regarding your health.
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