Osteoporosis: Are you at risk?

This article submitted by Judy Morency on 10/22/96.

Osteoporosis is a major health problem affecting over 25 million Americans, mostly women. It is a condition in which there is decrease in bone density often leading to fractures. The annual cost for treating osteoporosis and related fractures is over $10 billion in the U.S.

Bones serve several functions in the body. They provide structural support which allows for movement, they help protect vital organs, and they act as a storage place for essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and carbonate. Bone contains active cells that are in a continual process called "remodeling". Remodeling is a balance of breaking down (resorption) and rebuilding bone structure. It is regulated by hormones in the body.

Bones continue to grow in strength and size until the third decade of life when peak bone mass is attained. Bone mass and density begins to decrease after age 40. Bone loss is faster after menopause or surgical removal of ovaries.

There are some risk factors associated with the development of osteoporosis that you cannot control. These include increasing age, female gender, caucasian or Asian race, family history of osteoporosis, small stature or hormonal disorders. Some drugs can contribute to your risk of developing osteoporosis. Other risk factors that you can help to control include exercise, calcium intake, cigarette smoking, and alcohol consumption. Most often osteoporosis is not diagnosed until a fracture occurs. Fractures can be of the wrist, hip, or vertebrae. For patients at high risk, bone density can be measured by a non-invasive scanning procedure. Currently this scanning procedure is not recommended as a screening tool for everyone.

The best treatment for osteoporosis is prevention. Here's what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. First maintain an adequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D. These nutrients can be found in dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. Other sources of calcium include salmon, sardines, and green leafy vegetables. Calcium supplements should be considered if dietary intake is less than adequate. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1000 mg/day for pre-menopausal adult women and for men. Post-menopausal women require 1500 mg/day. Calcium carbonate is the least expensive source of calcium in a supplement. Secondly, continue to exercise on a regular basis with activities such as walking or biking. Stopping smoking will decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis as well as benefit your heart, lungs and overall heath. Use moderation in alcohol consumption. Finally, if you are post-menopausal, talk with your physician about estrogen replacement therapy. Estrogen replacement therapy is not advised for some women. Estrogen replacement therapy helps to prevent osteoporosis and has beneficial effects in preventing heart disease as well.

If you have osteoporosis already, there are new treatments available to increase your bone density and reduce your risk of fractures. Spinal deformity, recurrent fractures, and back pain are a few of the complications resulting from osteoporosis. Paynesville Area Medical Clinic will soon have the equipment to measure bone density. Working together we can identify your risk factors, provide scanning to diagnose osteoporosis, and offer treatment.

Judy Morency is a resident of Stillwater and in her last year at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. She will graduate in June with her PharmD degree (Doctor of Pharmacy). She is currently working for two months at the Paynesville Area Medical Clinic with Dr. Laura Miller focusing on diabetes and warfarin management.

[ Return to Previous Menu | Archived Press Stories Menu | Return to the News Page ]