Bone health is vital after age 50

Ashton Brown
Posted 5/4/16


DOVER — As we age, our bones become more brittle and more likely to break, especially after age 50. The weakness and bone damage can be caused in part by osteoporosis.

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Bone health is vital after age 50



DOVER — As we age, our bones become more brittle and more likely to break, especially after age 50. The weakness and bone damage can be caused in part by osteoporosis.

“Osteoporosis is a bone disease where the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone or a combination of both,” said Terry Towne, a clinical educator for Bayhealth.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million people in the U.S. older than 50 have osteoporosis and another 34 million are at risk for the disease.

“Post-menopausal women are likely to have weak bones because they are losing estrogen and bone health can be compromised by many diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, breast or prostate cancer,” Ms. Towne said. “Other factors like smoking and heavy drinking can lead to bone density loss, too.”

Those at increased risk of osteoporosis are Caucasians, Asians, those with thin or petite body types and individuals who do not regularly exercise.

“Under a microscope, bone isn’t solid, it looks more like a honeycomb and in bones with osteoporosis, the empty spaces are much larger,” Ms. Towne said.

The large empty spaces make the bone less dense and density is an important measure of osteoporosis and many individuals older than 50 are recommended to get regular bone density screenings.

Screenings are easy and painless. They require putting a foot into an ultrasound device where the density of the heel is measured. The heel is used because the bone there is similar to that of the hip, where fractures are most likely to occur in aging adults.

“Anyone who has osteoporosis or shows early signs of the disease will be put on a supplement or medication by their doctor,” Ms. Towne said.

The most commonly suggested supplement is a combination calcium and vitamin D pill while those with more severe bone loss will be prescribed medication that will either slow bone loss or promote bone growth.

It’s important to take action after an osteoporosis diagnosis because weak bones can result in breaks or falls and in advance cases, breaks can occur from the smallest things like sneezing or a minor bump.

“About one-third of individuals 65 and up have a fall every year and when you add osteoporosis to the equation, the risk of breaking a bone is a real danger,” Ms. Towne said.

Aside from breaks, bones, especially in the spine, can become deformed and lead to a permanent hunchback posture.

Breaks and deformities can cause longterm pain and limited mobility. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports complications like this can cause emotional pain too, leading to depression and a feeling of isolation.

But other outcomes can be even more serious — 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from complications related to the broken bone or the surgery to repair it. Many patients will even require long-term nursing home care after a break.

Aside from the toll osteoporosis can take on your body and mind, the toll it takes on your wallet and insurance can be difficult too.

More than $19 billion is spent on osteoporosis-related medical costs every year in the United States. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, by 2025, osteoporosis will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and $25.3 billion in costs annually.

A bone density screening is the best way to learn about your bone health and risk of osteoporosis. To find a free bone density screening near you call 744-7135 or toll free at 1-877-453-7101 or visit

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