Osteopenia and Osteoporosis after 50
The Big O’s we don’t want are Osteopenia and Osteoporosis. They tend to start in middle age.
We lose bone mass as we grow older – some more than others – but it happens to all of us. Our bones naturally become thinner as we grow older because our bodies reabsorb bone cells faster than they can make new bone. That’s because our bones lose minerals, mass and structure, which makes them weaker. This means we more easily suffer fractures, frail backs, legs, elbows, arms, hips, and broken bones.
But you may not even notice you’re losing bone density, as there are no actual symptoms… until it’s almost too late.
Osteopenia vs Osteoporosis.
The difference between osteopenia and osteoporosis is the degree of bone loss.
Both are loss of bone density but since osteopenia is a lesser degree of bone loss, most consider it less severe than osteoporosis. However, osteopenia can be and often is a precursor to osteoporosis.
If you develop osteopenia the more at risk you are of fracturing a bone than someone with a normal bone density, but you are less likely to fracture a bone than is someone with osteoporosis.
The best way to prevent the bone-thinning conditions – the Big Os – are through diet and weight-bearing exercise. In addition, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, weight bearing or resistance exercise and muscle-strengthening are the best ways to build (and maintain) your bone density.
Resistance exercises stimulate your bone-building cells called Osteoblasts to make new bone.
Muscle-strengthening exercise – such as weight lifting using dumbbells, kettle bells, resistance bands, cable machines and your own body weight – makes you work against gravity in a standing, sitting or prone position. When you increase muscle strength you decrease the risk of falls and fractures.
How to be tested for the Big Os
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends being tested for osteopenia and osteoporosis through a DXA scan. The real name is the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry Scan but who can remember that?!
The DXA (sometimes referred to as DEXA scan) measures Bone Mass Density –BMD- in the hip, spine, and sometimes the wrist. These parts of the body are most frequently prone to bone fracture. The DXA is a very accurate predictor of future fracture risk.
T scores are used to diagnose osteopenia and osteoporosis; those between -1.0 and -2.5 indicate osteopenia, and T scores lower than -2.5 indicate osteoporosis.
I recommend my clients who are 40 and over who have broken or fractured bones without a specific accident (such as car crash, sports accident or fall) ask their doctors to look into treating them as though they have osteoporosis. Many medical specialists agree that if a person suffers a bone fracture without trauma, they have osteoporosis by definition, regardless of T score.
At the very least, The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends the following be tested for osteopenia or osteoporosis:
* Postmenopausal women
* Adults who have a bone fracture after age 50
* Men 50-69 years of age at increased risk for osteoporosis
* Adults with a medical condition associated with bone loss (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or who take a medication which can cause bone loss (such as prednisone or other steroids).
In addition to getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise, doctors agree that the best way to prevent and reverse osteopenia is by living a healthful lifestyle. This includes
* Consuming enough calcium through your diet and possible supplements
* A good dose of vitamin D (ask your doctor)
* Not drinking too much alcohol (one drink daily max for women, two drink daily max for men)
* Not smoking
* And again, getting plenty of exercise (I can’t help myself!)
Lastly, people always ask me what kind of doctor they should see about possible Osteopenia or osteoporosis. Various types of doctors diagnose and effectively treat the Big Os . They include Endocrinologists, Rheumatologists, OB-GYNs, Internal Medicine, General Internists. Physiatrists, Geriatricians, and Orthopedic Surgeons who have an interest in treating osteoporosis.
Many different specialized medical practitioners can treat patients with osteoporosis effectively. Your primary family doctor can help you choose which one is the best for you: For the right type of and right level of exercise, you may want to work with a personal trainer. A good trainer for this will create a functional workout plan – one that will take you through movements that you will use your day to day life. There you go… the nitty gritty on the “Big Os!”
The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem without consulting with your healthcare professional.
Written by Ronnie Loaiza, Contributing Writer for the 50 PLUS REPORT Online Magazine.