Osteoporosis: Preventing it Early On and How It Affects Men

By 2020, half of all Americans older than age 50 will be at an increased risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass if no immediate steps are taken, according to the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis. Research shows that adolescents and children in the United States aren't getting enough bone-building nutrients in their daily diets, putting them at risk for fractures now and osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become weak and more likely to break, later in life.

The National Dairy Council, along with four health professional organizations, have launched an educational campaign to promote healthy bones throughout life. The campaign communicates to parents and families that eating a healthy diet that includes the recommended three servings a day of nutrient- rich low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, such as milk, cheese or yogurt, particularly during childhood and adolescence, helps reduce the risk of osteoporosis. The American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association and the National Medical Association support the campaign.

Health care professionals recognize the importance of educating families about bone health, as they are beginning to see an increased rate of bone fractures among children. A growing body of research demonstrates that low bone mass is contributing to fractures in children, including data that illustrate just as many forearm fractures among 13-year-old girls as among women ages 60 and older, due to low bone mass. Because of this, the campaign urges families to develop healthy lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of osteoporosis throughout life, not simply in the later years.

"Parents need to recognize that osteoporosis is a pediatric disease that shows itself in the geriatric stage of life," said Jatinder Bhatia, M.D., FAAP of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "In other words, the bone mass built during childhood and adolescence helps determine lifetime risk of fractures and osteoporosis as people age."

Dr. Lisa Hark, director of the Nutrition Education and Prevention Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and host of the first season of "Honey, We're Killing the Kids," a television show on The Learning Channel, said parents need to know that it's more than just the calcium and vitamin D in dairy foods that help build stronger bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis — it's dairy's entire package of bone-building nutrients, which includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, protein and vitamin D.

"Eating three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or reduced-fat cheese each day in a healthy diet ensures adequate intake of essential nutrients that can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis years from now," Hark said. "Parents should also encourage their children to be physically active."

The U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis calls for all Americans to take action to improve and maintain healthy bones. The report notes the importance of consuming three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods each day, consistent with the recommendation in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Even though the causes of osteoporosis are complex, Hark offers three simple steps to help build strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis for the entire family:

  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet that includes three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or reduced-fat cheese each day.
  • Be active — participate in weight-bearing activities.
  • If you're a parent, be a role model. Children will follow your lead.

"As role models, parents have a great opportunity to practice healthy eating and exercise habits so they can be imitated by the entire family," said Hark. "It's never too early or too late to develop lifestyle habits that contribute to healthy bones and help protect ourselves and our families by reducing the risk of osteoporosis."

Survey Shows Moms Concerned About Family Not Getting Enough Bone-Building Nutrients

A recent survey of approximately 1,000 moms nationwide found that more than 60 percent are concerned that they and their children are not getting enough bone-building nutrients to help prevent fractures and osteoporosis. Also, more than nine out of 10 moms agree that when children consume three servings of dairy foods a day, such as milk, cheese or yogurt, the risk of osteoporosis later in life is reduced. However, less than half of moms said they themselves do not consume the recommended three servings of dairy foods a day. And data show that less than half of children ages 2-8 and only one-fourth of children ages 9-19 get the recommended three servings of dairy foods a day.

Beginning in October, visit www.3aday.org to take a bone health self-assessment quiz and learn more about reducing the risk of osteoporosis, adopting healthy eating habits and dairy's unique nutrient package.

Osteoporosis: Undiagnosed, Untreated in Men

Osteoporosis is not just a significant health problem for women. It's also prevalent in aging men, yet the disease often goes undiagnosed until a fracture occurs, according to a paper published in the June 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. These fractures, which are treated primarily by orthopaedic surgeons, can play an important role in identifying men with osteoporosis so the disease also can be treated.

It is estimated that more than 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis. According to the paper, which is an extensive review of the current literature on the disease, 30 percent of hip fractures occur in men, and those men have twice the mortality rate of women during the initial hospitalization and first post-fracture year. One-third of men who suffer a hip fracture lose independence and must move into a nursing facility or a relative's home. With 77 million baby boomers aging, the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of men with osteoporosis is crucial to preventing these fragility fractures.

"My goal of this paper was to increase awareness among the public and my colleagues that osteoporosis is not only a women's disease — men also lose bone density as they age," said author Vonda J. Wright, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, and a Sports Medicine and Shoulder fellow at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. "But because many of us don't realize how common osteoporosis can be in men, we don't always look for it when a male patient has suffered a fracture. The fracture gets treated but the disease does not, so the patient continues to be at risk."

Osteoporosis is often considered a woman's disease because it is linked to a loss of bio-available estrogen that occurs during aging. Because women have higher levels of estrogen, most of the research on osteoporosis has been focused on them. Men also undergo a loss of estrogen, however, and other hormones that affect bone density, albeit more gradually than women.

Men who are most likely to have osteoporosis are those who are older than 75, have a low body-mass index, have lost more than 5 percent body weight in the previous four years, currently smoke and are physically inactive; at least 50 percent of the causes of osteoporosis in men are ascribed to other diseases or lifestyle choices. Men are more likely than women to have osteoporosis secondary to an underlying disease or metabolic problem.

There is also a genetic factor in osteoporosis. "If you are a man who notices that your father is losing height, or sustained a hip fracture from a standing position, he may have osteoporosis; therefore, you may have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis, too," Wright explained. "Even if you don't have those symptoms yet, you should see your orthopaedic surgeon or internist to have your bone density checked so you can begin a program of treatment if necessary."

Abstracts and full text of the monthly, peer-reviewed JAAOS are available online at www.jaaos.org.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of HME Business.

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