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GBMC Experts Discuss Osteoporosis

May 23, 2019
You Can Lower Your Risk of Osteoporosis

You may have osteoporosis and not even be aware that your bones are becoming weak and brittle. Ruth Horowitz, MD, Chief of Endocrinology and Metabolism at GBMC, and James Johnson, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at GBMC Health Partners, talked with BMore Lifestyle’s Brandi Proctor about what puts you at risk for osteoporosis, proactive steps you can take to lower your risk, and treatments for this disease that affects almost a quarter of women over age 65.

“Osteoporosis is a silent disease,” explained Dr. Johnson. “In fact, you might not know you have it until you fracture a bone. There are about two million low energy fractures (broken bone caused by a fall from standing height) in the U.S. each year and 250,000 hip fractures. And even after people recover from these hip fractures, they often need a cane or require help with the activities of daily living they used to handle independently.”

Dr. Horowitz said that as the U.S. population ages, osteoporosis is growing increasingly common. “Osteoporosis affects both women and men,” she noted. “Bone is maintained by the hormones estrogen and testosterone, which decrease as we age, leading to lower bone mineral density. A number of medical conditions can also increase your risk of osteoporosis, including rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease as well as the use of steroid medications and aromatase inhibitors used to treat breast cancer. Many people are diagnosed with osteoporosis when they have a fragility fracture or spontaneous fracture and we perform a bone density scan.”

The doctors recommended that post-menopausal women over age 65 and men over age 70 undergo a bone density screening, which is also called a DEXA scan. They also explained that you can lower your risk and protect the health of your bones by doing regular weight bearing exercises like walking or aerobics, resistance exercise, and exercise that strengthens your core like yoga, tai chi, and Pilates. A strong core helps prevent falls. “If you don’t fall, you don’t fracture,” said Dr. Johnson.

A healthy diet rich in foods that contain calcium and vitamin D is also important, as is not smoking and limiting the amount of alcohol you drink. The doctors also noted that getting shorter isn’t just a normal part of aging. Loss of height due to undetected compression fractures in the vertebrae can be a sign that you have osteoporosis.
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