Over 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and 44 million people have low bone density giving them an increased risk of breaking a bone, according to American Bone Health, a national nonprofit dedicated to educating people about bone health and gesture prevention.
“Osteoporosis is a huge public health crisis, in the United States, there are 54 million people who either have what’s called low bone mass, or osteoporosis who are at risk of breaking a bone,” said Cheryl Hostinak, executive director of American Bone Health. “There are one out of two women, and one out of four men over the age of 50, who will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime.”
Over two million preventable fractures occur due to osteoporosis each year in the U.S. There are more fractures from osteoporosis every year than heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer combined.
“Between the ages of, well nine and 14 is when we build the most bone, but you build your peak bone mass by the time you’re 30,” Hostinak said. “Then you want to hang on to that bone mass, because by around age 50, if you’re a female, you’re going to start losing it.”
The risk of osteoporosis is highest among women. It is higher for whites and Asians than other groups. However, older men and women of all backgrounds are at risk.
“If you’re a man, it’s going to be a little bit later, but talking to family and friends and really getting people to bring it out, talk to your healthcare provider about your bone health,” Hostinak said. “Helping to raise money for educational programs to get more people to take our fracture risk calculator is always helpful.”
Annual expenses for providing care for osteoporotic fractures among Medicare beneficiaries has been estimated at $57 billion in 2018 and is expected to increase to over $95 billion in 2040.
“We are having our day of giving in May, but we have lots of great free educational programs that will be going on throughout the course of the month and we offer them all year round,” Hostinak said. “So I would say, talk to your family members and friends and especially if you’re 50 or older, you need to talk to your doctor about your bone health.”
Only 8% of women Medicare beneficiaries that suffered a fracture in 2015 were screened for osteoporosis within six month and for Black women, the screening rate was just 5%.
People over 65 with a hip fracture are three to four times more likely to die within a year after surgery than the general population.
Having at least one broken bone in the spine makes having another broken bone in the spine within a year five times more likely.
Though milk is not necessarily a necessity, the calcium from it is instrumental.
“What I will say is that calcium is essential, so milk is a great way to get calcium but there’s a lot of other ways to get calcium,” Hostinak said. “So calcium is the best way and you can get it from foods other than milk.”
However you get it, calcium is essential.
“What is really important is to get the right nutrition and that includes calcium, vitamin D and protein,” Hostinak said. “Our bones are constantly turning over, so when you build up bone cells, the old bone cells are taken away, but if you don’t get enough calcium in your body that makes the bones weak.”
Though having a slender build with “small bones” is a risk factor for osteoporosis, being obese can also lead to bone loss and increased risk of fractures.
“So the nutrition and physical activity your bones like to get is what’s called weight bearing exercise and they need to be loaded with weight in order to really stimulate that bone cell growth,” Hostinak said.
However you prefer to exercise, make sure you commit a few hours a week.
“So things like dancing, stair climbing, and walking are good but not as good as running,” Hostinak said. “… You need to keep your muscles toned, so that you have good balance.”
Weakened bones can be caused by a variety of factors besides age, including some medicines; medical conditions including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer plus lack of physical activity.
“So you know, primary causes are aging, but now with all of these other conditions so prevalent in our society,” Hostinak said. “We are seeing all of that come into play, so anybody who has any of those conditions should be checking their bone health.”
The sooner you get your bones on track, the better.
“That is the crazy thing as it is a silent disease,” Hostinak said. “You will not know that you have osteoporosis until you break a bone, which is why it’s really important for people to understand their risk factors.”
Go work out or see a doctor to make sure your bones are top-notch.
“Do things like a risk assessment to understand their risks, and then if they’re at moderate or high risk to get a bone density test,” Hostinak said.