Saturday, October 15, 2011

Everything You Know about Osteoporosis is Wrong

I read somewhere that being a senior citizen has its cool advantages.

Here they are.

o   In a hostage situation, terrorists and bank robbers are likely to release you first. (Especially if you try acting having  difficulty breathing).
o   People call at 9:00pm and ask, “I’m sorry, did I wake you up?”
o   You have a party at home and the neighbours won’t even know you’re having a party. Because it is so quiet.
o   Your secrets are safe with your friends because they won’t remember them.
o   And finally, you enjoy 20% discounts in restaurants, drugstores, and if you live here in Quezon City, free movies on Mondays of the week. (I have an aunt who tells me she has watched every single movie shown. I bet even The Exorcist, the Grudge and all versions of Friday the 13th.)

However, aging is also associated with health concerns such as hypertension, diabetes, ulcers, etc, and osteoporosis may seem not so worrisome. But is it not really?
So, that brings us to the orthopedic topic of this post: osteoporosis. First, let us define osteoporosis. It is the thinning of the bones that cause them to lose strength and become fragile. It is associated with aging, affects women more than men, and progresses more rapidly after menopause.  Osteoporosis, similar to hypertension, is sometimes called the "silent disease," and most people don't know they have osteoporosis until it has progressed — often to the point of fracture, usually in the hip, wrist or spine. Even when undiagnosed osteoporosis results in a spinal fracture, the pain is frequently dismissed as general back pain. This lack of awareness, even among doctors, can lead to serious illness, deformity, even death.

       The following are some things that are regarded about osteoporosis but evidence show they are untrue.

Wrong Number 1 - Since osteoporosis is associated with aging, we cannot prevent it.

Aging per se, cannot be prevented.  No matter how many noselifts, tummy tucks or breast augmentations you undergo, it will not stop you from aging. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, while associated with aging, is both preventable and curable, if caught in time.  Problem is, there is not enough awareness of the opportunities for prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and too many people—mostly women over the age of 50—suffer significant illness, deformity and sometimes even death from this condition.  People, even the family doctor, are not well-informed about this, and dismiss it as just part of the normal process of aging.  .

Wrong Number 2 – Osteoporosis is not that common, so why bother

        It is a fairly well-known fact that osteoporosis is one of the most common conditions in the US. Approximately 8 million women and 2 million men suffer from this disease. Another 34 million have low bone mass and are thus at increased risk for osteoporosis. Some key statistics include:   

 * Approximately 1.5 million people suffer from an osteoporotic fracture each year. An estimated 700,000 of them experience vertebral compression fractures (spinal fractures).
    * From age 50 on, one in every two women and one in four men will sustain some type of osteoporosis-related fracture.
    * An average of 24% of hip fracture patients aged 50 and over die in the year following their fracture.

Wrong Number 3 – It is not good to exercise when you have osteoporosis or else, you might break your bones.

        Weight bearing exercise (which refers to activity that one performs while on their feet that works the bones and muscles against gravity) and muscle contraction combined have been shown to effectively increase bone density in the spine. It is recommended that an individual perform 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times weekly to increase bone mass. Besides, exercise promotes the general well-being of individuals. Remember in my previous post, I told you to find an exercise you enjoy and try to incorporate that in your daily activities, with your-loved one, for added incentive.

        A note of caution: for people with osteoporosis, care must be taken when exercising. Activities that require twisting of the spine or bending forward from the waist (such as sit-ups or toe touches) may be dangerous. Individuals already diagnosed with osteoporosis should discuss their exercise program with their physician to avoid fractures.

When your elderly parents develop fractures due to osteoporosis, it may really be devastating, not only to them, but to you as well. The cost of treatment by way of surgery may be prohibitive to most Filipinos, especially if you don’t have any medical insurance.  Not only that, the stress of caring for a depressed elderly can put a toll on you, too, emotionally. Remember that as people age, they tend to become more sensitive, easily agitated and depressed from their sudden loss of independence and mobility.

As of now, clearly, prevention is the best solution.  Don’t take osteoporosis for granted.  People who dismiss that osteoporosis is just part of the normal aging process and do nothing about it, are clearly missing the whole point. 

 If you're concerned about your bone health and would like to prevent osteoporosis, consult your doctor, preferably orthopedic surgeon. He or she may recommend a bone density test. The results will help your doctor gauge your bone density and determine your rate of bone loss. Recently, in my clinic in Katipunan, Quezon City, we had a free osteoporosis screening to our patients. We hope to do this more regularly. Unless you have yourself checked, you will never know if you have osteoporosis or not.

Friends, realize that there are more health care options available for you in this time and age. Take time to study them.  Weigh the benefits versus the risks of each option. Don’t settle for “patch up care and band-aid solutions”. Make up your own mind without being pressured or harassed.  Ultimately, it is you or your family member who is going to suffer if you insist on solution rather than focusing on prevention.

More tips to bone up your bone health in future posts……………

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