Osteoporosis Myth: Broken Bones From Falls Are Not Related to Osteoporosis
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Reality: Fractures in individuals over the age of 50 can be the first sign of weak bones from osteoporosis or low bone mass. Each year, 1.5 million older Americans suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis. Half of all women over 50, and a quarter of all men, will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture sometime in their remaining life. And the problem is increasing: the surgeon general estimates that by 2020, half of all Americans over 50 will be at risk for bone fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass.
If you are over 50, any broken bone should be taken very seriously. You may think to yourself, "Anyone would have broken a bone after taking a fall like that," but a break after a fall in people over 50 may be a critical sign of osteoporosis. Talk with your doctor about whether you should have a bone density test to determine if your fracture could be due to osteoporosis.
A bone density scan can detect thinning bones at an early stage. If you already have osteoporosis, bone scans can also tell you how fast the disease is progressing.
But an abnormal bone scan can create as many questions as it answers. Who should get a bone density scan, and what do the results mean? If your bone density is below normal, what can you expect, and what should you do?
There are many medications available to treat osteoporosis, and they have been shown to substantially reduce the risk of bone fractures in people with osteoporosis. If your doctor prescribes an osteoporosis medication, it's important to keep taking it even if you don't see improvements on your next bone density scan. Osteoporosis drugs can be reducing your risk of bone fracture in ways that don't show up on a bone density scan. And as always, you should continue to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.