Generally, there are no symptoms, until you have that first fracture.
Typically, it happens as people get older, and women are more at risk than men. This is linked to loss of estrogen – a key to building healthy bone.
“Women start right after menopause,” said Dr. John Magaldi. “The average age of menopause is around 50-52. We start seeing the effects of osteoporosis at the age of 60. Men typically are much older. Men have risks of losing testosterone. Probably more 70’s & 80 years old with men.”
Dr. Magaldi is with the Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Healthcare.
He said another common question asked by patients is “Am I at risk?”
“People who are on corticosteroids or prednisone, they are at greater risk,” he said. “People on thyroid medicines are at greater risk, and so those are things we watch for and there’s also family history. We know the Asian population, Caucasians, much higher risk for osteoporosis than, let’s say, the African-American population.”
Osteoporosis develops silently, but what are the signs?
Dr. Magaldi said, “Usually, that unfortunately presents with a fracture. And we call them fragility fractures. Fragility fractures means you fall, literally from the height you’re standing to the ground and break something. There’s a 20 percent chance of spine fracture and 16 percent of a hip fracture in a lifetime of a woman. In a man, it’s about six percent spine fracture, five percent hip fracture, so a lot lower.”
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People also want to know — what can be done to prevent it?
“Some of the things are nutritionally. Obviously, taking calcium supplements and taking Vitamin D supplement, staying active, avoiding medications that may put you at risk,” he said.
What about exercise?
“When bone is impacted by weight, it actually hardens and gets more dense. So the exercises that are more important are things like weighted exercises, walking, not swimming, that would be something that isn’t good thing for bones.”
What are the risks with a bone fracture linked to osteoporosis?
He said, “The sad part is when a fracture occurs, there’s a sub group of folks that are much older. They may die as a complication of a fracture, whether it be pneumonia, whether it be surgery to have a fix of a hip that’s fractured. And a significant portion may not die but, they have lose their independence.”
Dr. Magaldi recommended talking with your doctor about a bone mineral density test – especially if you are more at risk. Another sign of osteoporosism he said, is when someone shrinks in height.
There are a number of medications available to build more bone or slow down the breakdown, and more are being developed.
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