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Osteoporosis: Risk Factors, Detection and New Treatments

Whether we like to admit it or not, health issues and healthcare just seem to become a way of life when we get a little older. Ample time must be spent figuring out what type of healthcare plan is going to work best for us. Are we satisfied with standard Medicare coverage, or is it necessary to seek out Medigap (supplemental medical insurance) in order to get the level of coverage we need? Do we have a satisfactory prescription drug plan in place? Are there conditions that are simply unavoidable later in life?

For millions of women across the country, osteoporosis seems to fall into that final category. The condition that involves the thinning of bone mass and causes fractures afflicts a large range of women. Although osteoporosis is more common in senior women, it can also affect younger women. In order to combat osteoporosis, many look to identify the condition early - Medicare generally covers a bone scan every other year. A recent study, though, has indicated that some women might not need to seek out scans as often. Now, we are not suggesting that you stop the process, as identification is vital in treating osteoporosis, and early indication can help you take steps to help you live with the condition more comfortably. However, this study does show that a group of women may not be as susceptible to bone thinning as was once thought:

“But a new study says it's not necessary for perhaps half of women over 67. These women show no bone loss, or very little, on their first bone density scan.” For them, the study says, it's not necessary to do another scan for 15 years. (from Many Older Women May Not Need Frequent Bone Scans)

Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

While this recent study indicates that osteoporosis might not be as much of a risk for a number of women over 67, it is still a risk for millions of women. Many of these risks are simply unavoidable, as age, sex, race, family history, and frame size play major roles in one’s susceptibility to osteoporosis.

However, there are some factors, beyond these “unavoidables” that can increase that risk. For instance, it’s believed that heart failure is an independent risk for fractures related to osteoporosis. This means that heart failure, in and of itself, can make people more susceptible to the condition, regardless of Bone Mineral Density.

There are also more easily monitored factors such as diet. Those who have a diet low in calcium are more at risk, as are those who have dealt with eating disorders, or weight loss surgery. This means it’s important for those who are already at risk due to age, race, sex, and family history to set up a diet plan with a nutritionist or a healthcare professional that can ensure the intake of proper calcium levels and other foods that can help mitigate the risk of osteoporosis.

Recent Study Offers Hope for the Future

For many dealing with osteoporosis, the thought of getting relief from it seems like a pipedream. Most simply hope that they can prolong further deterioration and relieve some of the pain associated with the condition. However, a recent study dealing with osteoarthritis shows some promising advances that could help combat bone degenerative conditions in the future. The study demonstrated that a steroid already used in dealing with osteoporosis could have farther ranging positive effects:

“Teriparatide, a form of human parathyroid hormone approved to treat osteoporosis, works to restore bone strength by targeting bone-building cells. However, based on the discovery that cartilage in arthritic joints — but in not healthy joints — expresses receptors for parathyroid hormone, combined with the hormone’s known effects on cartilage cells called chondrocytes in the growth plate areas of bone, Randy Rosier, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of Rochester Medical Center, wondered whether teriparatide might also target chondrocytes in arthritic joints. Reports that people with OA who were taking teriparatide for their osteoporosis had less arthritis pain further supported this approach.” (from Osteoarthritis Drug Triggers New Bone and Cartilage Formation).

The ability to more effectively combat the pain often associated with osteoporosis and OA is a good sign for those already dealing with the condition and for those who are already in one of the high-risk categories. The discovery that a significant percent of women over the age of 67 might not be as susceptible to bone loss is also a good sign for many women across the country. However, it’s still important for those in high-risk categories to receive bone scans, it’s also important to minimize dietary and lifestyle choices that can make you even more susceptible to osteoporosis.

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