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New Guidelines for Osteoporosis Tests

Older Men and Younger Men With Risk Factors Should Get Bone Density Test

Assessing Fracture Risk continued...

The WHO model is designed to determine a person's risk of suffering a fracture within 10 years, based on the results of bone density testing and risk factor assessment.

The new guidelines call for treatment to be offered to anyone with low bone mass and whose 10-year risk for suffering a hip fracture exceeds 3% or whose risk for any fracture related to bone loss exceeds 20%, Siris says.

"That doesn't mean people should not be treated if their risk does not meet this threshold," Siris says. "But it makes it very clear that above this threshold it is medically proper and cost-effective to treat these patients."

Fractures related to osteoporosis and bone loss cost the U.S. health care system an estimated $17 billion in 2005, and this cost is projected to double or even triple over the next 20 to 30 years as the population ages.

Having better ways of identifying patients who would benefit from treatment could save health care dollars by reducing fractures and allowing low-risk patients to avoid unnecessary treatments, Siris says.

Reducing Your Risk

Although men have a lower risk for osteoporosis-related fractures than women, their risk is far from insignificant.

One in five men will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in his lifetime, compared with one out of two white women, according to the surgeon general.

Recommendations cited in the NOF report to help postmenopausal women and men over 50 reduce their osteoporosis risk include:

  • Make sure you get at least 1,200 milligrams per day of calcium and 800 to 1,000 international units of vitamin D.
  • Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise to reduce the risk for falls and fractures.
  • If you smoke, stop. And if you drink alcohol, don't drink too much.
  • Know your osteoporosis risk factors and follow your doctor's advice with regard to testing and treatment.
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