Health Topics

Better Bones

Break the Statistic, Not Your Bones
By Paul Manganelli, MD

Defining Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disorder characterized by progressive weakening of bone over time. Left undetected or treated, this process will cause your bones to become very brittle and the risk for fractures becomes a dangerous possibility. Fractures caused by weak bones are referred to as fragility fractures.

Osteoporosis is Widespread
Osteoporosis is a major public health issue. Aging women of Caucasian and Asian descent are affected most; however, all people are vulnerable. Currently a fourth of the entire adult population is at risk. Statistics tell us that one in two adult women will experience a fragility fracture in their lifetime as well as one in five adult men.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis
You may have heard osteoporosis referred to as the silent epidemic. This is because there are typically no symptoms during early stages of the disease. In most cases, the condition becomes known when you experience your first fragility fracture. When bones become brittle, harmless activities such as bending, twisting, coughing, or simply falling from a seated or standing position may cause a severe fracture. After enduring one fragility fracture, your probability of subsequent breaks is increased fivefold. If you have two fragility fractures, the risk of additional fracture increases twelvefold. Chronic pain or permanent impairment can result from recurring fragility fractures. 

While osteoporosis affects all the bones of the body, the most common fractures occur in the spine, hips and wrists. Vertebral compression fractures of the spine are often associated with pain and the development of a hunchback. This condition is also referred to as a dowager’s hump, or kyphosis, and is a telltale sign of weak bones. Spinal fragility fractures can lead to difficulty with walking, eating or even breathing. 

Fragility fractures of the hip are especially dangerous. Due to resulting complications of the extended recovery time, one fourth of patients don’t survive the first year after a hip fracture.

The best way for you to avoid the dangers of fragility fractures is to your protect bone health before weakening occurs.

Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
The first step to maintain bone health is to discuss your risk factors with your DMG health care provider. Risk factors include more than just gender, age and family history. Multiple medical conditions also contribute to the progression of osteoporosis such as rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism and hyperparathyroidism, to name a few. In some cases, the medication used to treat these and other problems can further compromise your bone health. Your doctor will review these issues with you and optimize your health care plan.

Often, simple lifestyle modifications are effective for minimizing your risk of fragility fractures. These include:
• smoking cessation
• enforcing healthy dietary habits to include adequate intake of vitamin D and calcium
• enjoying healthy levels of exercise (especially weight-bearing exercises) 
• establishing a fall prevention plan
All of these changes can dramatically reduce your probability of incurring a fragility fracture.

Diagnosing and Treating Osteoporosis
Fortunately, screening for weak bones is easy. It requires a simple specialized X-Ray called a DEXA scan. The results rate the fragility of your bones. Treatment for low-risk patients may require only lifestyle modifications and observation. Higher-risk patients may require more aggressive management with prescription medication. Talk to your DMG physician to understand your results and navigate your options.

Learn more about DEXA scans here.



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