Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a loss of bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue. It is a silent disease by which a patient may suffer fractures after a minimal trauma, such as a fall. These fractures are common and may result in significant incapacitation or even death. Osteopenia is a condition where bone mineral density is lower than normal and is considered by many healthcare providers to be a precursor to osteoporosis. However, not every person diagnosed with osteopenia will develop osteoporosis. Fortunately, both osteoporosis and osteopenia can be diagnosed and treated before any fractures occur.
Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. This is due to a lower level of bone tissue in women versus men. After menopause, women begin to lose bone mass more quickly as their estrogen levels decline. An estimated 1 in 2 women will experience an osteoporotic fracture in her lifetime.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends screening DEXA scans every two years for persons in the following groups:
• Women 65 years and older
• Women of menopausal age with risk factors for osteoporosis
• Post-menopausal women under age 65 with risk factors for osteoporosis
• People who have had a broken bone after age 50
• Men 70 years and older
• Men 60-69 years of age with risk factors for osteoporosis
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
• Age: As you age, your chance of developing osteoporosis increases as you continue to lose bone mass.
• Dietary Factors: People who have a lack of calcium and vitamin D in their diets are at greater risk.
• Cigarettes and Coffee: Smoking and a high level of coffee intake are factors that lead to a decline in bone density.
• Menopausal and Post-Menopausal: Estrogen helps to maintain bone mass. As women go through menopause, the reduction in estrogen levels are greatly reduced causing their bone mass to decline.
• Lack of Exercise: Inactivity and immobility also increases the chance of osteoporosis.
• Family History: It has been noted by some studies that genetic factors influence one’s bone density as well.
• Medications: Various painkillers are known to reduce bone mass if taken for an extended period of time.