Lost some of your backbone? If so, you may not even know it.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, bone loss, in its initial stages, can occur without causing symptoms.
Such was the case for me. My wake-up call, however, came 16 years ago, at the age of 50, when I discovered that I had fractured three ribs, without ever knowing how. I had also lost four inches in height.
A bone density test, or DEXA scan, revealed osteoporosis.
"Osteoporosis is a life-threatening disease" says endocrinologist Dr. Dan Wood, of the Mid Coast Medical Group in Bath, Maine.
"As many women die of hip fractures, as die of breast cancer," he says.
But the problem is not limited to women. Every year, 80,000 men suffer a hip fracture, and unfortunately, one-third of these men die within a year, according to information released by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Indeed, one in eight men, as well as one in two women over 50 risk suffering an osteoporosis-related fracture, says Dr. Ingrid Eriksson, director of the Central Maine Osteoporosis Center at the Central Maine Medical Facility, Lewiston, Maine.
Despite these alarming statistics, medical developments suggest that osteoporosis may be preventable and treatable in both women and men. For example, the prescription medication, Fosamax, which was approved for treatment of osteoporosis in post-menopausal women in 1995, has been approved for treatment in men.
Recent studies, however, have indicated that there may be problems with taking this drug related to loss of jaw bone, so check with your doctor first about this new development.
Another drug which offers more protection for people who have already have had several broken bones, is the prescription, Forteo, a daily injection of PTH, or Parathyroid Hormone. Forteo can reduce fractures by up to 70 percent, according to my endocrinologist, Dr. David G. Robertson, Atlanta, Georgia. In fact, I am now taking these injections because Fosamax did not work for me.
"These medications are not about making you young again," says Dr. Eriksson. "They are about giving you your independence." And isn't that what all of us want?
For more information, go to the National Osteoporosis Foundation website: www.nof.org. The book, Strong Women, Strong Bones by Miriam E. Nelson is also excellent.