Do You Know Your Fracture Risk?

As women age there is a concern about retaining the strength and density of their bones, especially as they approach and progress into menopause. Previous belief had doctors counseling their patients to take calcium supplements or prescription bone-building drugs.

What continuing research has revealed is that bone density is merely one aspect of bone health. We have come to better understand that exercise and diet can have a powerful effect. Regular weight bearing exercise has a strong, positive consequence toward building that bone-health base. Knowing how powerful that connection is, I wonder what will be the long-term effect of the increased dependency on soda, and the subsequent reduction in milk consumption of the upcoming generations.  When you are dining out, how often do you see children or teens drinking milk? Probably not often.  They can get calcium from yogurt or cheese, but milk is a solid way to receive those benefits.

There is also a new tool that your doctor can recommend to assess your risk as you age called the Fracture Risk Assessment Tool (FRAX). It works by you and your physician collaboratively answering a series of questions to determine how dense your bones are.  If required, your doctor may use an imaging test called a DXA scan. (Consumer Reports on Health)

Guidelines recommend that women should have their bone density checked at age 65, men at age 70.  If you present a family history of bone-concerns, then you may want to address the issue at an earlier age. This would incorporate family history, but some medications can affect bone health, including aluminum-containing antacids like Maalox or Mylanta as well as some antidepressants like Prozac or Zoloft. Make sure you inform your doctor of all medications you take, even over the counter meds. Also, build a reliable relationship with a pharmacist who is schooled on side effects of many medications.

Consumer Reports on Health recommends that if you have heart disease you should get your fracture risk evaluated with a bone scan, because statistically, you may be at high-risk for hip fractures. Some times when someone has had a profound-cardiovascular event, especially a stroke, the patient may be more prone to falling.

This concern reminds all of us to keep an eye on our aging friends and family to make sure their environment is the safest it can be to help them avoid falls, which can be especially difficult for them to recover from. Small dogs, stairs, icy conditions, stepping into bath tubs and loose handrails are just a few home-dangers that aging loved ones may not consider as fall hazards.

The good news is that advanced research, more emphasis on diets that move away from soda, processed foods toward whole foods, regular fitness and a better understanding on positive diagnostic tools puts this generation in a better place for better bone health.

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