When most people think of Osteoporosis, they think of the elderly and generally don't think they will ever have to worry about this condition. Yet, many people are often unsure what Osteoporosis is or how it could impact them as they get older.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens your bones where they can break easily—most often, bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. The National Center for Health Statistics, National Health, and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that one out of eight U.S. adults aged 50 and over have Osteoporosis at either the femur neck or lumbar spine, or both locations.
More than 3 million Osteoporosis cases are diagnosed per year in the U.S., with an estimated 44 million Americans, or more than half of those aged 50 or older.
Prevalence of osteoporosis among adults aged 50 and over, by sex and age: United States
Prevalence of osteoporosis among adults aged 50 and over, by sex and age: United States.
In Canada, 1.4 million Canadians have Osteoporosis; an estimated 924,000 Australians have Osteoporosis, representing 3.8% of the population. About 3 million people in the U.K. are estimated to have Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in older people. There are more women with Osteoporosis than men. While less common in men than women, approximately 1.5 million men over age 65 years in the United States have Osteoporosis, and another 3.5 million men are at risk.
Prevalence of low bone mass among adults aged 50 and over, by sex and age: United States.
Too Many Don’t Worry Until They Break a Bone
Yet, few people worry about the condition until they break a bone. The Mayo Clinic says that Osteoporosis can make your bones so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture.
Each year, Osteoporosis contributes to more than 2 million bone fractures in the U.S.
Symptoms, there are usually no symptoms, and that is part of the problem as there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. Osteoporosis is referred to as a "silent disease" since you may not notice any problems until a bone breaks. Once you have symptoms, your condition has already progressed.
A stooped posture is perhaps the most visible symptom. Loss of height and back pain are also common. The problem is preventing the condition from progressing to avoid broken bones.
Osteoporosis causes a vast deal of suffering, including the loss of your independence. The dependency due to Osteoporosis requires long-term health care.
Osteopenia vs Osteoporosis
Sometimes people confuse Osteopenia and Osteoporosis. Osteopenia is when your bone mineral density is low. Over 43 million people in the U.S. have Osteopenia. Your bone density peaks when you are about 35 years old and then starts dropping.
The best way to diagnose Osteopenia or Osteoporosis is with a DEXA Scan ("dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry"). DEXA scan is a bone density test that uses low-energy x-rays to see the calcium content of an individual's bones, comparing it to that of both healthy young adults (t-score) and people of the same age and sex (z-score).
Depending on your T-score will determine if you are normal, have Osteopenia, or have Osteoporosis. Normal T-scores fall between +1 and -1. If you have scores between -1 and -2.5, it is considered low bone density, indicating a diagnosis of Osteopenia. A T-score of -2.5 or lower shows Osteoporosis.
Usually, the initial treatment for Osteopenia is calcium and vitamin D supplements, along with exercise. In some cases, medications, which are also used to treat Osteoporosis, are used by your doctor. These medications include alendronic acid (Fosamax), ibandronic acid (Boniva), risedronic acid (Actonel), and zoledronic acid (Reclast).
Most of these are pills that you would usually take once a week or once a month. But Reclast comes, however, as an injection, usually once a year.
Women and at-risk men should take a bone density scan. DEXA Scans usually are started for women once they reach the age of menopause. Women, and at-risk men, will often get a baseline test in their early to mid-50s.
Family History? Be Proactive
If you have a family history of Osteoporosis, be pro-active with your doctor and get a scan. You will enjoy the aging process without the worry of bone fracture and the related health issues that come with losing bone density.
In your 40s or 50s, you should consider Long-Term Care Insurance. These policies are medically underwritten and Osteoporosis could make you uninsurable if you wait too long. We all experience changes in our health, bodies, and mind as we get older. Preparing your family and finances for the changes and the consequences of aging should be a vital part of an overall retirement plan.
Seek the help of a qualified and trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help guide you in finding the right coverage with the right insurance company.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
You probably first noticed changes in your body by the time you were age 30. As we get older, we experience many changes in health, body, and mind. The result leads to needing help with daily activities we take for granted today. We can't avoid aging - aging happens. The costs of long-term health care have many consequences on our family and finances.
Preparing your family and finances for the future costs and burdens of aging is an essential part of retirement planning. But Long-Term Care Insurance is more than just about money.
Yes, long-term health care is a significant cash flow issue. LTC Insurance addresses this problem. But, long-term care is also a family issue. Without any plan in place, the family will go into crisis mode. The result can be a disaster for you and your family, and your wishes may take a back seat.
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