Osteoporosis is a global health problem. Over the age of 50 years, 1 in 2 women and one in every 5 men sustains an osteoporotic fracture during life. If you add up all cases of cancer of the uterus, cervix and ovaries, it still doesn’t add up to the deaths relating to the aftereffects of osteoporotic fractures.
There are two critical times in life that have been shown apply to the formation of osteoporosis. One is failing to achieve adequate bone mass during adolescence. The other is when a high rate of bone loss occurs during menopause or advancing age. Along with the uncontrollable factor of age is the lifestyle choices such as smoking, nutrition, exercise, and medications such as steroids which can result in bone density losses.
The definition of osteoporosis was established back in 1994 by the World Health Organization. Bone mineral density measurements are compared to what is known as “young normals” in the female population. If a person’s bone mineral density falls within 1 to 2 standard deviations of these “young normal” the condition is referred to as osteopenia. If it is over 2.5 standard deviations below the norm, it is referred to as osteoporosis.
Based on the 2000 Census, over 50 million American men and women suffer from either osteopenia or osteoporosis. Over 1.5 million fractures from osteoporosis occur in the US each year. Half of those occur in the spine, twenty percent at the hip, and 30% at the wrist. There is a decade differential with regards to the types of fractures seen. People in their 50’s most commonly sustain wrist fractures. Once individuals reach their 60’s, the spine is the most common location, and in the 70’s the hip becomes the most common site. Amazingly, the death rate after a hip fracture is 20% in the first year afterwards. Over half of male patients with hip fractures do not regain their walking status within one year after sustaining a hip fracture, and unfortunately less than half ever recover their pre-fracture ability to perform activities of daily living such as eating, grooming, dressing, or bathing.
In vertebral fractures, repeated occurrence may produce an unnatural spinal curvature along with height loss. The rib cage tends to move downward and may rest against the iliac crest. Organs may become compressed, and an protuberance may be evident in the abdomen. Height loss, inhibited breathing, back pain, and abdominal fullness may be seen. The spinal fractures may result in a patient having decreased appetite due to this compression with subsequent weight loss. The forward resulting kyphosis may lead to shallow respiration’s, which can affect future anesthesia. Chronic lung disease may result.
With the complications from hip and spine fractures being so significant, the best method of treatment is actually to try and prevent them from occurring in the first place.