September 3, 2019
More than 12 million individuals in the US age 50 and older are expected to have osteoporosis by 2020. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the density and quality of bones are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture increases.
“Osteoporosis is a really serious issue,” said Dr. Anne Halli-Tierney, assistant professor of family, internal, and rural medicine at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, and a practicing geriatrician at University Medical Center, which CCHS operates.
Halli-Tierney spoke about osteoporosis to residents of Capstone Village as part of the College’s Mini Medical School community education program. Capstone Village is a retirement community at UA.
She said 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men will have an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime, potentially leading to limited mobility, chronic pain, decreased quality of life and, in some cases, can be fatal if a second such fracture occurs within a year.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include age, physical inactivity, previous bone fragility, smoking, insufficient calcium intake and consuming more than three alcohol drinks per day. Women have considerably higher rates of osteoporosis than men.
Halli-Tierney said screening is important. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends regular screening for women over age 65, and women under age 65 who have risk factors. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends screenings for post-menopausal women over age 50, as well as for men over the age of 50. The foundation also recommends screening for individuals who have suffered a fragility fracture – a fall from standing height or less that results in a fracture. People should be able to sustain falls from this height without a fracture unless there is an underlying cause that makes the bones fragile, such as osteoporosis, Halli-Tierney said.
She said osteoporosis screening is typically conducted with a DXA scan, which measures bone mineral density, and by evaluating a person’s Vitamin D levels. She said screening should be done every three years.
To reduce the risk of osteoporosis, and to treat the condition once diagnosed, Halli-Tierney recommends weight-bearing exercise and getting the recommended daily amounts of Vitamin D and Calcium, preferably through food but also with supplements if needed. She said the amount of exercise needs to be the equivalent of 30 minutes a day five days a week, and that it can include walking.