The next 2 blog posts from Dr. Dollinger will talk about a bone disease that affects millions of people around the world. Below is the first in a 2-part series about Osteoporosis:
52 million people have some degree of bone disease, including 40 million with low bone mass. There are approximately 1.2 million hip, spine, and wrist fractures combined annually resulting in $17 billion in costs. Perhaps the scariest number of them all is the projected $50 billion in costs in 2040. With those kinds of frightening numbers, it’s important to have a good understanding of what osteoporosis is, how it can affect you, and what you can do about it.
So when I say, “osteoporosis,” I bet you think, “calcium.” We all know bones need calcium, but why exactly? To say it in a few words, our bones are like calcium banks. Over our lives, our bones are continually re-making themselves, or “remodelling,” in order to repair micro-damage from everyday stress and, more importantly, to help regulate calcium levels in the body. What you may not know is that calcium is also extremely vital for your heart and your muscles. So when your body does not have enough calcium for those high priority functions, it takes calcium from your bones, leading to lower bone density, which results in bone fractures.
You might also think, “old age,” when you think of osteoporosis; however, anybody is at risk who has low calcium levels because of an increased demand of calcium (for example, through high amounts of athletic activity or endurance training), low absorption of calcium (due to malnutrition, anorexia, bariatric surgery, or celiac disease), or complications caused by medical treatments (like chemotherapy or anti-epilepsy medication). Ballet dancers who keep that classical lean figure while training constantly for required strength and flexibility may be just as vulnerable to osteoporosis as grandma.
Of course, there are risk factors that, unfortunately, you cannot change. The list includes advanced age, bone fracture in your personal or family history, Caucasian or Asian ethnicity, small stature, menopause, early hysterectomy, low testosterone, and use of steroids (even in medications for asthma) or other certain medications. Women, overall, are at a much higher risk of osteoporosis with 7.8 million affected in 2002 and a prediction of 10.5 million affected in 2020.
There are some factors that you can change, including maintaining healthy calcium and vitamin D levels, lowering caffeine consumption, engaging in a healthy level of activity, consuming fewer than 3 alcoholic beverages per day, not smoking or quitting, being careful about certain medications.
But here is the really bone-chilling part: osteoporosis is a silent disease. There are no symptoms to warn you before a fracture occurs. Bone density screening is basically the main way to look at the health of your bones and to look for impending danger. Think of it as your flashlight in the dark of night…
Tune in next time for Part II. In the meantime, if you’d like more information, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.