The risk of low bone mineral density and osteoporosis.

Date:

17-Dec-2001

Source

JAMA

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Calcium Magnesium Osteoporosis
Professional Data: Calcium Magnesium Osteoporosis

Article

Throughout life, bone is constantly rebuilding itself. Bone serves as a storehouse for minerals, chiefly calcium, which can be tapped to meet the body's mineral requirements. Bone is broken down through a process called "resorption," releasing its minerals into the general circulation. New bone is then formed to replace the reabsorbed bone, preventing a net loss of bone. This is called bone "remodeling." As we age, however, bone formation begins to fall behind, causing the gradual bone loss that culminates in osteoporosis. The soft spongy bone in the wrists, hips, and spine are the most vulnerable to osteoporosis and prone to breakage as a result.

Osteoporosis is often called the "silent disease" because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebra may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as severely stooped posture or the tell-tale "dawager's hump." 1 in 2 women and 1 in 8 men 50 years and over will have osteoporosis related fractures.1

A recent study investigated the occurrence of low bone mineral density (BMD) in 200,160 postmenopausal women who had no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis. Subjects were selected from thousands of primary care practices across the country. The BMD was measured through a peripheral bone densitometry attained at the heel, forearm, or finger. The women also filled out a questionnaire to assess the risk factors for low BMD. The results represented that 39.6% had osteopenia, 7.2% had osteoporosis, and all of the women were unaware of these conditions. Smoking, Hispanic background, and cortisone use were associated with increased risks of osteoporosis, while African American background, exercise, and moderate alcohol consumption was related to lower risks. Of this group of women, osteoporosis sufferers had a 4 times more likely chance of a fracture than those with a normal BMD. The conclusion of this study illustrated that almost half of the population investigated had undetected low bone mineral density, including 7% who did not know they had osteoporosis.2

References

1. National Osteoporosis Foundation, 1999.
2. Suarez-Almazor ES, et al. Identification and Fracture Outcomes of Undiagnosed Low Bone Mineral Density in Postmenopausal Women. JAMA. Dec 2001; 286:2815-2822.