Know the subtle signs of osteoporosis

No matter your age or gender, it’s important to be educated about osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates 52 million Americans have osteoporosis – more than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer. It is preventable and treatable, but most patients are not diagnosed in time to receive effective therapy during the early phase of the disease.

“The signs are subtle,” said Jana Reed, certified nurse practitioner at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute (INI). “That’s why INI is trying to be make people aware that they need to have their bone health regularly evaluated.”

Osteoporosis signs

Signs of the disease include:

  • losing one or more inches in height
  • developing a stooped posture
  • having a deep bone ache

Because of the slow development of these symptoms, it is easy to let them go unnoticed. Proactive steps to protect your bones are important because osteoporosis cannot be cured; however, treatment can help.

Osteoporosis prevention

Adults should actively minimize their risk of developing osteoporosis by eating a healthy diet and regularly participating in weight-bearing exercises. Hereditary risks, such as being tall and thin with small bones, are not in your control. However, your diet and exercise routine are. Those who drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day, smoke, eat foods high in salt and acid, are malnourished or have had gastric bypass are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Your diet can help minimize risk by ensuring your body receives all the proper nutrients it needs. Calcium, Vitamin D and magnesium are three key components to bone health. Having your doctor perform two blood tests, a complete metabolic profile and a Vitamin D Hydroxy, can help recognize dietary risk factors. “It’s a good precaution to have all adults check their vitamin and mineral levels,” Jana said.

Men over the age of 70 and women 65 years or older should have a bone mineral density (BMD) test completed every two years to help catch the signs before an accident occurs. Women with premature menopause and all women post-menopause should begin regular BMD scans, regardless of age.

Nutrition is not the only way to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises that work against gravity can also help. Examples of these exercises include weight training, walking, running, hiking, and dancing. Non-weight bearing exercises include activities such as swimming or biking. While all kinds of exercise are good for your heart and body, weight-bearing exercises will help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Risk of fractures

Not only does osteoporosis increase your risk of breaking bones if you fall, it also increases the risk of failed or compromised surgical operations because the bones aren’t strong enough to support added hardware.

Fragility fractures, or low-impact fractures, are the most common cause of fractures among seniors. Half of all women and 25 percent of all men over the age of 50 will sustain fragility fractures in their lifetime. Once a person has a fragility fracture, her or she is at an 86 percent higher risk of a second fracture. Despite this increased risk, only about one in four patients with fragility fractures receive osteoporosis treatment within six to 12 months.

“Most people don’t think they have it until they break something,” Jana said. “Even then, the broken bone might be treated without asking why the bone fractured so easily in the first place.” If you have had a fragility fracture – or have two or more risk factors – be sure to visit a specialist to create a personalized bone health care plan to check and manage your osteoporosis.

We can help

The Illinois Neurological Institute (INI) offers an Osteoporosis Clinic and a comprehensive bone health program. With a specialized team housed inside the Spine Institute, we can help you effectively work toward a healthier lifestyle and increased bone density. You don’t need a physician referral to visit the clinic. If you have multiple risk factors for osteoporosis, call the clinic at (877) 464-6670. Become educated on how you can live a healthier life with a decreased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.