Caregiver Resources - Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength and leading to increased risk of breaking a bone. Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms unless one is fractured (broken). Women and men alike begin to lose bone in their mid-30s; as they approach menopause, women lose bone at a greater rate (2-3% per year). 80% of all fractures in people over 50 yr. are caused by osteoporosis. At least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer a broken bone as a result of osteoporosis during their lifetime. The most common fractures (broken bones), are in the hip, spine and wrists. 28 % of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture die within 1 yr. Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. (1)

Risk Factors

  • Aging female (over 50 yr.), early menopause
  • Family history (parental hip fracture)
  • Certain medications (i.e. >3 months use of glucocorticoid drugs, hormone treatment for cancer)
  • Medical conditions which inhibit nutrient absorption or contribute to bone loss (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, chronic malnutrition or malabsorption disease, chronic liver disease, uncontrolled hyperthyroidism),
  • Previous fractures of the spine
  • Recurrent falls (2 or more within the past 12 months)
  • Smoking
  • High alcohol intake (3 or more drinks per day)
  • Low body weight (≤ 60kg or 132 lb.)

Bone Mineral Density (BMD) Testing

Is a safe and painless way to measure bone density and monitor bone loss. Testing involves lying on a table for several minutes while a small x-ray detector scans the spine, 1or both hips. Testing is ordered by your doctor or nurse practitioner. There are a number of ways and medications available to treat and reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Healthy eating, regular exercise and making sure you are getting enough calcium and Vitamin D are important to keep and build healthy bones.  Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner about your risk factors and the need for testing and/or medications which are right for you.

References

1.  Osteoporosis Canada (2014). Retrieved March 20, 2014 from: 
     http://www.osteoporosis.ca