Most of us have heard about osteoporosis, but we’re about to start hearing a lot more. That’s because the incidence of osteoporosis is sharply rising as population’s age in the United States and around the world. This growing epidemic will have major implications for our society, especially in homes where older women act as caregivers.

Osteoporosis is a Progressive Skeletal Disease

Characterized by bone loss, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture.2 It currently affects more than 75 million people in Europe, Japan, and the United States alone. But what is especially alarming about osteoporosis is its projected growth worldwide. In the past decade, the number of osteoporotic hip fractures has quadrupled. By 2040, the number of people over age 65 is expected to double, so the number of hip fractures will certainly continue to skyrocket as well.

Osteoporosis is especially common in women over 50

Fifty-two percent have early bone mass loss, and 20 percent have clinical osteoporosis. Hispanic women have a slightly lower incidence rate, while Black women are less often affected. White and Asian men demonstrate early bone mass loss 35 percent of the time, and 7 percent suffer clinical osteoporosis. Again, Hispanic and Black men are less vulnerable.

The risk factors for osteoporosis are well known

They include being female, over 50, having low estrogen, being thin with a body mass index of less than 19, having low bone mass, having a history of fragility fractures in yourself or a family member, having poor nutrition with deficient calcium and vitamin D intake, smoking, excessive use of alcohol, having an inactive lifestyle, or having taken steroids or anti-convulsant drugs. Of these, being a female over 50 presents an important area of concern. Statistics show that women in this age group continue to play an important role as caregivers for aging parents, ill spouses and others. The harmful effects of osteoporosis can add an enormous burden to the already daunting task of family caregiving. Many women are at risk.

Osteoporotic Fractures Caused by Falls
A re another key area that needs our attention. Because their bones are weaker, people with osteoporosis are at a greater risk of injuring themselves when they fall. By 2050, it is expected that 6.3 million people will suffer hip fractures worldwide.

Hip, Back and Wrists Fractures

Many of the hip, back, and wrist fractures among Americans over age 50 are related to osteoporosis. One in every two women, and one in every four men, will suffer a fragility fracture in their lifetime. And if you have one fracture, you’re twice as likely to have a second. When people are admitted to the hospital for care of a fragility fracture, they are usually not evaluated for osteoporosis. In fact, 90 to 95 percent will go home without a bone density test.

Osteoporosis is Manageable, and Fractures are Avoidable

We should be much more proactive in addressing the problem.

• First: we must realize that sound bones are established early in life. By age twenty, 98 percent of a woman’s skeletal mass is established. Therefore, it is crucial to have proper early nutrition, high intake of calcium and vitamin D, and plenty of weight-bearing exercise.

• Second: healthy adult lifestyles including exercise, excluding smoking, and practicing modest alcohol use are preventative.

• Third: if you’re 50 and a woman with risk factors, you need a bone density scan.

• Fourth: if you suffer a hip, wrist, or back fracture, you require a complete evaluation for osteoporosis, and you likely will benefit from strategies to increase bone formation and decrease bone resorption. Finally, more research and education is essential.

Osteoporosis has been out of sight and out of mind for too long.It’s time to get it under control.

Preventive Measures

Such as not smoking, maintaining a balanced diet supplemented with calcium and vitamin D. Especially engaging in weight-bearing exercise like walking, can reduce an individual’s chances of developing osteoporosis. However, in some people these preventive measures may not be enough, and medications like Actonel may be beneficial.