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Osteoporosis 101 – What You Need to Know
- Osteoporosis causes brittle bones and increases the likelihood of fractures.
- There are several risk factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, thyroid disorder, and a family history of the illness.
- Osteoporosis can be managed with physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
MPH, MSN, WHNP-BC
Osteoporosis is a chronic health condition that causes someone’s bones to become brittle and more at risk for fractures and bone damage.
Bones are essential for daily movement, function, and activity. If anything happens to someone’s bones, their livelihood and quality of life can be significantly impaired.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis occurs when you lose more bone mass than you create. Bones in the human body are always renewing and regenerating. When someone is younger, their bodies can renew and regenerate bones much easier and faster compared to when someone is older.
As people age, bone loss can exceed more than bone creation. When there is more bone loss compared to bone creation, bones can become more susceptible to fractures and cause pain.
What Are the Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?
- Being a woman
- Being white or Asian
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Having a history of malnutrition
- Being an older age
- Having a history of eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa
- Having a history of thyroid disorders, especially if they are left untreated
- Having a history of overactive parathyroid or adrenal glands
- Having a low calcium intake
- Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Sometimes, people with osteoporosis have no signs or symptoms. Other times, common signs and symptoms include:
- Decreased height over time
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Changes in posture
- Bodily pain
- Bones that break or fracture more easily than expected
How Is Osteoporosis Diagnosed and Managed?
Osteoporosis is diagnosed by clinical assessment, blood tests, and a bone mineral density (BMD) test. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BMD tests are often recommended for women at age 65 and men at age 70. People who have a family history or other risk factors might benefit from earlier BMD screening.
Osteoporosis can be managed with medication, physical therapy, dietary recommendations, and lifestyle changes. Oftentimes, people with osteoporosis are advised to have diets rich in Vitamin D and calcium.
Mild physical activity, such as walking and weightlifting, can also help strengthen bones. Depending on someone’s health condition, physical therapy might help with mobility and flexibility as well.
What Can I Do to Raise Awareness About Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting the growing geriatric population. By 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO) anticipates that 1 in 6 people in the world will be over age 60.
It is also important to note that osteoporosis can affect young people, too. Particularly those who are experiencing or have experienced anorexia nervosa or malnutrition.
Oftentimes, there can be mixed messages people see on social media and from their community members regarding health conditions.
Nurses are the most trusted profession for a reason. Patients often turn to nurses for medical information since there can be so many uncertainties about health care, medication, and more.
Some ways you can raise awareness about osteoporosis include:
- Providing educational materials
- Addressing any concerns about mobility and pain
- Reviewing patients’ health records
- Educating patients on diet and lifestyle
- Discussing with nursing management any osteoporosis education efforts at your workplace for both patients and staff
The Bottom Line
Approximately 10 million people over the age of 50 in the United States have osteoporosis with millions more at risk every day. Aging Americans are among the fastest-growing demographic, especially aging women. As part of healthy aging and osteoporosis awareness, including older Americans in health education is essential.
In addition, 28 million Americans will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. For people who experience anorexia nervosa, osteoporosis is a serious potential complication.
Educational materials and discussions with healthcare providers can make a difference in diagnosing osteoporosis before a fracture or further complications. There are several groups of people, such as people with disabilities, for which osteoporosis can be life-endangering.
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