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Ten Bone-Chilling Facts About Osteoporosis


Submitted by Elizabeth Madlem, APN, The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center

No bones about it, osteoporosis — bone loss — is a serious disease, though fortunately, testing and treatments are available so you can protect yourself and those you care about.

The facts and stats

To help you handle the condition, there are a few facts you should know:

  1. Fifty-four million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis.
  2. One in two women and up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
  3. Sixty thousand deaths annually are due to complications from osteoporosis.
  4. Every year, 300,000 hip fractures occur, and 20 percent of those impacted die within a year, while half never regain their independence.
  5. More U.S. women die each year from complications of hip fracture than from breast cancer. In fact, a woman’s lifetime risk of hip fracture equals her combined risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
  6. Sixty percent of women 50-plus have either osteoporosis or low bone mass.
  7. Bone loss in men usually occurs later in life compared with women, but by age 65, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate.
  8. Osteoporotic fractures lead to 2.5 million medical office visits annually.
  9. Women who have a bone density test have 35-percent fewer hip fractures than those who do not, yet less than 24 percent of eligible Medicare patients are tested.
  10. Every three minutes, someone has a fracture due to osteoporosis — but you don’t have to be among them.

What to do about it

The experts at the National Osteoporosis Foundation say that if you’re a woman over 65; a man over 70; or if you’re over 50, postmenopausal, and have risk factors for osteoporosis; you should talk to your health care provider about getting a bone density test, especially if you’ve never had one. This test tells you if you have normal bone density, low bone density (osteopenia), or osteoporosis. The lower your bone density, the greater your risk of breaking a bone. The test can help you and your healthcare provider predict your chance of breaking a bone in the future and consider treatment to prevent that.

Testing your bones

X-rays are not able to show osteoporosis until the disease is well advanced, so the NOF recommends a simple, painless, non-invasive bone density test using a central DXA machine to diagnose osteoporosis. DXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. The test usually takes less than 15 minutes.

Understanding the results

Your bone density test results are reported using T-scores. A T-score shows how much your bone density is higher or lower than the bone density of a healthy 30-year-old adult. A health care provider looks at the lowest T-score to diagnose osteoporosis.

What your T-score means

According to the World Health Organization (WHO)…

  • A T-score of -1.0 or above is normal bone density. Examples are 0.9, 0, and -0.9.
  • A T-score between -1.0 and -2.5 means you have low bone density. Examples are T-scores of -1.1, -1.6, and -2.4.
  • A T-score of -2.5 or below is a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Examples are T-scores of -2.6, -3.3, and -3.9.

The lower a person’s T-score, the lower the bone density. A T-score of -1.0 is lower than a T-score of 0.5, and a T-score of -3.5 is lower than a T-score of -3.0.

Osteoporosis can be scary, but there are many things you can do to keep this “silent” disease from creeping up on you, including proper nutrition and exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk factors and ways to minimize bone loss and keep your bones healthy and strong as you get older. Because once you’ve lost bone, it’s gone!

For more information on bone health and osteoporosis, you may contact The Bone Health Clinic at Millennium Pain Center, 309-662-4321. They have a new location at 2406 East Empire St. in Bloomington, next to Orthopedic & Sports Enhancement Center. Elizabeth Madlem is a certified bone-health consultant. The clinic provides screening, diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment plan for people who have or are at risk of developing osteoporosis.