A Norwich Bulletin Healthy Living Column
National Osteoporosis Awareness Month is recognized in May, but it’s important that the discussion about this condition doesn’t stop there. Establishing healthy habits when you’re young can help prevent or lessen the severity of osteoporosis as you age.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder where bones become porous, brittle, and prone to fracture. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults.
Osteoporosis is an asymptomatic condition, which means it often goes undiagnosed until a person suffers from a fracture of the hip, spine, or the wrist. Risk factors for developing osteoporosis can include:
Additionally, certain medical illnesses can accelerate bone loss including hyperthyroid, hyperparathyroidism, as well as some medications including steroids and aromatase inhibitor therapy.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with osteoporosis or you’ve had fragility fractures, you may be referred to an endocrinologist to confirm the diagnosis. Endocrinologists specialize in treating and preventing bone loss and preventing fractures. In addition, endocrinologists treat disorders that may affect bones, such as hyperparathyroidism, low and high levels of calcium.
Screening for osteoporosis involves an extensive history and physical examination, and bone mineral density testing. It is recommended women 65 years and older and men age 70 and older get screened. Women under the age of 65 and men between ages 50-69 with risk factors should be tested earlier.
A bone mineral density test compares your bone density to the bones of an average healthy young adult using a T-score. Your T-score tells you how strong your bones are, whether you have osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone mass), and your risk for having a fracture.
The good news is that osteoporosis is preventable and treatable. Treatment for osteoporosis consists of pharmacologic medications which can substantially reduce your risk of fracture and prevent further bone loss. Your endocrinologist will also assess your individual fall risk and teach fracture prevention as part of your individualized treatment plan.
Remember, adapting a healthy lifestyle when you’re young can prevent osteoporosis. From a young age, your health, diet, and physical activity can determine your maximum bone development. Regular weight bearing and muscle strengthening exercises can help reduce your risk of falling. Quitting smoking and following a healthy diet with calcium-rich foods such as fish, green leafy vegetables, and dairy, as well as Vitamin D can keep your bones healthy.
Dr. Meryl J. Reichman is a board-certified and fellowship-trained endocrinologist at the Day Kimball Healthcare Center in Plainfield, Connecticut. To learn more about endocrinology services at Day Kimball Healthcare, visit www.daykimball.org/endocrinology.