As the elderly population in the United States continues to grow, so will the number of older Americans who have osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is an age-related degenerative condition marked by brittle, weakened bones that are prone to break, especially the hips, spine, and wrists. About 10 million Americans — 80 percent of whom are women — have osteoporosis and another 43 million have low bone mass that puts them at higher risk for broken bones.
Bone experts are sounding the alarm about some distressing trends involving osteoporosis and fractures:
- Bone mineral density testing – the best way to detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs – has decreased in recent years, in part because of cuts to Medicare reimbursement for physicians offering the service.
- Prescriptions for osteoporosis medicines have declined as media reports about rare adverse events have stoked fears among patients.
- In 2017, the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research issued “A Call to Action to Address the Crisis in Treatment of Osteoporosis” after finding the rate of hip fractures in the United States had leveled off after declining for years.
In response, the American College of Physicians and the Endocrine Society have issued new guidelines that call for more aggressive treatment of osteoporosis patients to prevent broken bones, which can be debilitating and even deadly.
Fortunately, there are steps consumers can take to help turn the tide against these trends.
Know your risk: Family history, certain medical conditions and medications, and smoking are some of the factors that can cause osteoporosis. Find out where you stand by using American Bone Health’s free Fracture Risk Calculator.
Get tested: The best way to know if you have osteoporosis is to take a bone mineral density test (also called a DXA scan). This test gives you a number called a T-score, which compares your bone mass to that of an average 30-year-old.
Get moving: Weight-bearing exercise is essential for keeping bone mass and preventing falls that can cause broken bones.
Feed your bones: Calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium are key nutrients for your bone health, and they require special attention to get into your diet. If you’re not getting enough calcium and vitamin D through food, a supplement can help you bridge the gap.
Talk to your doctor: Ask your physician how certain medical conditions and treatments can affect your bones, and what you can do to offset these effects. Learn more about how you can take these steps to prevent osteoporosis and fractures at americanbonehealth.org.