Prevention more effective health alternative

When the weather starts turning colder, my thoughts turn toward winter which brings the ice and thick footwear causing falls. Inevitably, this means more people will be in nursing homes recovering from hip fractures due to osteoporosis, which is unfortunate as osteoporotic fractures are preventable. Too many will never leave the nursing home. The risk of dying exceeds 9% within a year of hip fracture.

Four percent of men and 15 percent of women over age 50 have osteoporosis — weak bones that can fracture in common situtations. Osteoporosis can be diagnosed with a modified x-ray here in Alpena. Women over 65 are at high risk because the majority of bone loss begins after menopause when they lose the sex hormones that keep bones strong. Some osteoporosis is caused by choice — major osteoporosis risk factors include smoking, alcohol, prednisone use, rheumatoid arthritis and parental history. By age 60, smoking raises the risk of osteoporosis by 17 percent. By age 80 the risk in smokers exceeds 70 percent.

There are natural ways to combat osteoporosis: both weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise, adequate calcium and vitamin D in the diet, and five different classes of pharmaceuticals available for treatment. The medications most commonly used for both prevention and treatment are bisphosphonates.

As with most medical conditions, prevention is more effective than treatment and osteoporosis is no exception. Lifestyle choices contribute to osteoporosis and failure to treat known osteoporosis is a major contributor to hip and spine fractures. Don’t be a statistic; talk with your doctor about treatment and prevention.

Allan P. Frank, MD, MS


Assistant Clinical Professor

MSU College of Human Medicine