A Density Discussion
It can be difficult to spot osteoporosis, but there are steps you can take to prevent it.
We spoke to Dallas Wiesner, Pharmacist at Sherwood Co-op in Regina, Sask., about the disease and how your pharmacist can support you.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease in which a person has a low bone mass and breakdown of bone tissue, which can cause increased risk of breaking a bone. There is no single cause of osteoporosis.
At least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?
“Women, especially those who are post-menopausal, have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis compared to men,” said Wiesner. There are many other osteoporosis risk factors, including these:
- Increasing age
- Family or personal history of hip fractures
- Some medications, like prednisone if used for three or more months
- Diets low in calcium and vitamin D
- Excessive caffeine or alcohol intake
- Low body weight
- History of falls
What are the sign and symptoms of osteoporosis?
“Osteoporosis is often called the silent thief because bone loss occurs without any symptoms,” said Wiesner.
He explained that by the time weakened bones fracture or break, the disease is already advanced and is much harder to treat. Patients with osteoporosis can develop back pain and a stooped posture, and may also find themselves experiencing a loss of height.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Unfortunately, osteoporosis often goes undiagnosed until a patient breaks or fractures a bone. Wiesner noted that early detection of bone loss is very important in preventing these breaks.
Osteoporosis.ca has a Know Your Risk assessment quiz that can help determine your risk of developing osteoporosis, which may help you talk to your physician earlier about their risk. Physicians can order a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test that can tell you if you have osteoporosis or your likelihood of developing it in the future.
“It’s recommended that all men and women 65 years of age or older have a BMD test,” said Wiesner.
How can osteoporosis be prevented?
There are many things you can do to help maintain healthy bones and to avoid premature bone loss, including:
- Proper intake of calcium (1000 mg/day to 1200 mg/day) and vitamin D (400 IU/day to 2000 IU/day)
- Doing weight-bearing exercises
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking
How is osteoporosis treated?
Osteoporosis treatment includes a class of medications called Bisphosphonates such as Fosamax or Actonel. These medications bind to the surfaces of bones and slow down the bone-resorbing action of bone-eroding cells and allows bone-building cells to work more effectively. A new medication called Prolia regulates bone metabolism, and is administered as a twice-yearly injection when Bisphosphonates are ineffective.
What is the role of the pharmacist in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis?
As a highly accessible health-care professional, your pharmacist is a valuable source of osteoporosis information. They can help ensure that you’re receiving proper amounts of vitamin D and calcium, as well as helping patients take their osteoporosis treatments correctly. Pharmacists can provide advice on healthy diets and exercise, and they can help you stop smoking.
If you’re occupied with thoughts on osteoporosis, speak to your Otter Co-op pharmacist today.