(BPT) - It's easy to take bones for granted when they’re strong. Our unseen support system works around the clock, allowing us to do everything from swimming laps to playing with our grandchildren. Over time and as we age, people may lose bone mass or density, especially women after menopause. In some cases, this could be due to a chronic condition known as osteoporosis.1,2 Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and more likely to break.3 In some people with osteoporosis, bones may break from a minor fall or even a strong sneeze.3 Broken bones due to osteoporosis can be life-altering, potentially leading to pain or lowering a person's ability to perform daily activities.4,5 What we once took for granted may suddenly impact many plans we make.

While this scenario may seem extreme, it’s not uncommon. One in two women in the U.S. over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in her lifetime,1 and postmenopausal women are five times more likely to suffer another bone break within a year.6 Why is this important? Florida is home to approximately 4.4 million women over 507 — a proportion which is higher than the national average.8

Dr. Ernesto Rodriguez-Velazquez is a Rheumatologist at Florida Medical Clinic who works with postmenopausal patients to build a personal bone health plan. With extensive experience treating osteoporosis, he is sharing his knowledge on what postmenopausal women in Florida need to know when it comes to bone health.

Why should women be thinking about their bone health?

Dr. Rodriguez: A variety of health conditions can affect women as they age, and it has been encouraging to see greater awareness and action among women to seek early diagnosis — breast cancer is a great example of this. Bone health is also an important part of women’s overall health and wellness management — in other words, I would encourage women to take care of their bones like they care for their breasts. And it’s an appropriate comparator because a woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.2

How common is osteoporosis?

Dr. Rodriguez: Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis.9 Breaking a bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis, which is often called a silent disease because one can’t feel bones weakening.3 An estimated two million osteoporosis-related fractures occur every year.3

What are risk factors for osteoporosis?

Dr. Rodriguez: There are many factors that put someone at greater risk for osteoporosis, including being age 65 or older, low body weight, having a parent who had a hip fracture, excessive alcohol use (≥3 drinks/day), smoking, Vitamin D deficiency, and low calcium intake.10

What does screening for osteoporosis look like?

Dr. Rodriguez: Screening for osteoporosis involves a non-invasive, painless test, commonly known as a DXA scan, that looks a bit like a tanning bed.11 You don’t even have to remove your clothes, but you do need to make sure no buttons or zippers are in the way of the area to be scanned.11 Medicare Part B covers DXA every 2 years for women who are estrogen deficient or for people who meet certain Medicare criteria. It may be covered more often if it's medically necessary.12

How should women be talking about their bone health with their doctors?

Dr. Rodriguez: It’s important for patients to play an active role in developing a bone health plan with a healthcare professional, which could be an orthopedic doctor, rheumatologist, OBGYN or a primary care physician. Postmenopausal women should ask about their risk for osteoporosis and consider a bone density scan in addition to certain lifestyle changes. For more information, and a doctor discussion guide, readers can visit TakeChargeofOsteo.com. Additionally, women who are currently on treatment for osteoporosis should talk to their doctor about treatment access concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This content is sponsored by Amgen.

References

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and Osteoporosis: a Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2004.
  2. National Osteoporosis Foundation. What Women Need to Know. https://www.nof.org/preventing-fractures/general-facts/what-women-need-to-know/. Accessed July 15, 2020.
  3. National Osteoporosis Foundation. What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It? https://nof.org/patients/what-is- osteoporosis. Accessed June 17, 2020.
  4. Cosman F, de Beur SJ, LeBoff MS, et al. Clinician's Guide to Prevention and Treatment
  5. Inacio MC, Weiss JM, Miric A, Hunt JJ, Zohman GL, Paxton EW. A Community-Based Hip Fracture Registry: Population, Methods, and Outcomes. Perm J. 2015;19(3):29-36.
  6. van Geel TA, van Helden S, Geusens PP, Winkens B, Dinant GJ. Clinical subsequent fractures cluster in time after first fractures. Ann Rheum Dis. 2009;68:99-102.
  7. U.S. Census Bureau. 2018: American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Subject Tables. (Florida). https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=Florida%20population%20by%20age%20and%20gender&g=0400000US12&hidePreview=true&tid=ACSST5Y2018.S0101&t=Age%20and%20Sex&vintage=2018&layer=VT_2018_040_00_PY_D1&cid=S0101_C01_001E&y=2018. Accessed June 17, 2020.
  8. U.S. Census Bureau. 2018: American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates Subject Tables. (United States). https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?tid=ACSST1Y2018.S0101&t=Age%20and%20Sex&vintage=2018&hidePreview=true&moe=false. Accessed June 17, 2020.
  9. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Fast Facts. https://cdn.nof.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Osteoporosis-Fast-Facts.pdf. Accessed June 17, 2020.
  10. Camacho PM, Petak SM, Binkley N, et al. American association of clinical endocrinologists and American college of endocrinology clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis – 2020 update. Endocr Pract. 2020;26(Suppl 1):1-46.
  11. National Osteoporosis Foundation. Bone Density Exam Testing. https://www.nof.org/patients/diagnosis-information/bone- density- examtesting/. Accessed June 17, 2020.
  12. Medicare.gov. The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare. Bone mass measurements. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/bone-mass-measurements. Accessed June 17, 2020.