By Donna Wagstaff, M.D.
Family Practice Specialist
St. Anthony’s Medical Center
Has your doctor told you that you may be at risk for osteoporosis? What does that mean?
Osteoporosis is a crippling bone disease that affects more than 44 million Americans, 80 percent of them women. Often called the “silent killer,” it may develop unnoticed over many years, with no symptoms or discomfort, until a fracture occurs.
Osteoporosis causes progressive bone loss, leaving the bones porous, fragile and likely to break. It is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures each year, including more than 700,000 vertebral fractures and more than 300,000 hip fractures.
Some major risk factors that can lead to developing osteoporosis include:
- Aging. Everyone loses bone mass with age, because the body builds less new bone. Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause.
- Heredity. Family history of osteoporosis or of bone fractures; small, slender body build; fair skin, and Caucasian or Asian background.
- Lifestyle. Poor nutrition, Vitamin D deficiency, low calcium intake, sedentary habits, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, anorexia nervosa and the use of some medications.
While some factors, like age and heredity, can’t be changed, lifestyle habits can. Since the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass by age 20, the secret to healthy bones is to begin early in life. A balanced diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, a regular routine of weight-bearing exercise and a healthy lifestyle without smoking or excessive alcohol intake can help prevent the development of osteoporosis later in life.
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, treatment is available to prevent further bone loss. The key is early identification of not only those already affected by it but also those at risk for developing it. This is accomplished with a simple test to measure bone density. Your physician may order this test, which entails a quick and painless scan of your hips and spine. A computer compares your bone density to that of a normal 20-year-old, identifying whether or not you are at risk for fractures of the wrist, hip and spine. The lower the bone density, the higher the risk.
Do you think you may be at risk for osteoporosis? Join us for a free bone density screening from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 21. This 10-minute screening, which measures bone density through a simple heel ultrasound, can give information about your risk and help determine if you need a “central” bone density test of your hip and spine.
Screenings will take place at the South County Family YMCA, 12736 Southfork Road, just south of the St. Anthony’s campus. Because spaces are limited, registration for the screening is required. To register, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.
For a video demonstrating what takes place at a bone density screening, visit http://bit.ly/bonedensityscreening.
Dr. Donna Wagstaff, a family practitioner with a special interest in women’s health, is a member of St. Anthony’s Physician Organization. She practices at Telegraph Road Family Medicine, 4438 Telegraph Road, 314-543-5996. For a referral to any St. Anthony’s physician, call 314-ANTHONY (268-4669) or 1-800-554-9550.