Few Treated for Osteoporosis; Many at Risk
New Options Available to Prevent Broken Bones Caused by Osteoporosis
What Can Be Done?
Researchers say one in five women who have a spinal fracture
will have another one in the next 12 months. And a hip fracture also
significantly increases the future risk of breaking other bones in the
Despite the fact that a previous fracture significantly raises
the risk of future fractures, researchers say only about 20% of people who
suffer fractures are being offered any medications designed to lower this
But researchers say it's these patients who stand to gain the
most from treatment.
"In older women with osteoporosis and a fracture, proper
treatment will cut risk of hip and [spinal] fracture by about 50%," says
Kenneth Lyles, MD, a professor of medicine at Duke University School of
Medicine. And that reduction in risk may be even greater for other types of
Recently approved osteoporosis treatments not only have the
ability to slow the rate of bone loss, but some can even help regain lost bone
mass. Other drugs are also under investigation that may be able to selectively
target hormone receptors in the body that strengthen bones without the side
effects of hormone therapy.
Dietary changes and supplements to increase intake of calcium
and vitamin D can also reduce the risk of fracture.
Preventing Potentially Disabling Falls
Aside from drug treatment, Douglas Kiel, MD, MPH, director of
medical research at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged in Boston,
says there are many other low-tech ways to help prevent falls and broken bones
in people with osteoporosis.
Common fall prevention strategies include:
- Muscle strengthening of lower extremities through exercise
- Medical assessment, including vision, gait, and balance testing
- Home evaluation: Check for potential dangers at home, such as dim hallways,
obstacles, and slippery area rugs
- Tai chi: Studies have found the traditional Asian exercise practice can
improve balance and improve muscle strength
- Stop use of unnecessary drugs that may increase the risk of falls, such as
- Protective garments: Specially designed garments are being investigated to
help protect bones in people at risk for falls.
"Falling is not inevitable," says Kiel. "There are
many ways through nutrition, exercise, fall prevention, and protecting bones
with passive garments that might help reduce falls and fractures."