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Making noise about “The Silent Thief” — What you need to know about osteoporosis


(NC)—When Laura Carlson was diagnosed with osteoporosis two years ago, it came as quite a shock. Carlson, who was just 53 at the time of her diagnosis, had no idea that she had the disease until, at her doctor's recommendation, she had a bone mineral density (BMD) test.

“I always did everything that you're supposed to do to prevent osteoporosis,” says Carlson, who as a nurse working in hospital administration, had a good understanding of common measures to protect against osteoporosis. “I was a very fit and healthy person, got plenty of physical activity, did weight training and ate well. But for me, it just wasn't enough.”

Carlson is just one of approximately two million Canadians living with osteoporosis, a chronic disease that weakens the structure of bones, making them fragile and more likely to break or fracture. Osteoporosis is often called the “silent thief” because it develops with symptoms you cannot see or feel. Many people, like Carlson, only realize they have the disease after a BMD test or until they suffer a fracture.

“With osteoporosis, you can have significant bone loss without even realizing it,” says Dr. Rick Adachi, Professor, Department of Medicine, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, St. Josephs Healthcare – McMaster University. “It is important for anyone over the age of 50, particularly postmenopausal women, to be aware of the risk factors for osteoporosis. By understanding your personal risk factors, and then discussing these with your physician, you may be able to make lifestyle changes to improve your bone health and reduce your risk of fracture down the road.”

Who is at risk for osteoporosis related fracture?

Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, postmenopausal women are especially at risk because of the drop in estrogen levels that happens at menopause. Estrogen plays an important role in keeping women's bones healthy.

There are four main factors that can increase a person's risk of fracture. These include: low bone mineral density (BMD), a prior history of a fragility fracture (one that occurs as a result of minimal or no trauma), being 65 years of age or older, and a family history of osteoporosis.

So you've been diagnosed with osteoporosis – now what?

According to Carlson, her diagnosis with osteoporosis did not have much impact on her day-to-day life. She started taking extra calcium and vitamin D, and has continued the healthy lifestyle habits she had already established before her diagnosis. With her diagnosis, she also added a weekly oral medication to help rebuild the bone that she has lost.

“For me, having osteoporosis is no big deal,” says Carlson. “I have it, I take care of it and it doesn't stop me from doing anything.”

According to Dr. Adachi, it is important for anyone at risk, and those already diagnosed with osteoporosis to work with their physician to identify steps they can take to reduce their risk of further bone loss and to protect against fracture through lifestyle changes and appropriate treatment options.

“For some people, good nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits are enough to protect against osteoporosis. But for many others, these measures alone are not sufficient, and they may require a prescription medication,” says Dr. Adachi. “If medication is recommended, work with your doctor to find the right one for you. Osteoporosis treatments should provide protection from fracture particularly at the spine and hip, as well as a proven safety profile.”

“It is also important to find a treatment that fits with your lifestyle,” adds Dr. Adachi. “There are a wide variety of treatment and dosing options. Most recently, Health Canada approved the first once a month dosing option in Canada, which could be a good option for patients who lead an active life and want a simple and convenient treatment regimen.”

- News Canada

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Toronto, ON, Canada
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