What is Osteoporosis?

Every postmenopausal woman should be evaluated for her “risk” of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a “silent” risk factor for fracture just as high blood pressure is for stroke. 13-18% of postmenopausal women in the US have osteoporosis. An additional 30-50% have low bone density (thickness) at the hip. More than 10 million people total in the US have osteoporosis of the hip. Almost one of every two white women will experience an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. There is a significant, although lower, risk for non-white women and men. Hip fractures are associated with 10-20% mortality within 1 year; up to 25% of patients need long-term nursing care.

Any woman >65 years old with hip or spine fracture should be evaluated. Bone mineral density (BMD) studies should be done for any woman at risk. A BMD scan is a specialized x-ray to measure the thickness and strength of bone. Calcium supplements, hormones, and special medicines to enable the body to keep more calcium may be recommended based on BMD studies. Dietary calcium intake should be 1200mg/day and Vitamin D intake should be 400-800IU/day. Regular exercise and muscle strengthening is also recommended. All patients should be advised to avoid tobacco and use alcohol in moderation.

For additional information, contact the National Osteoporosis Foundation at http://www.nof.org.