Surgeon General warns of osteoporosis epidemic

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE



Surgeon General warns of osteoporosis epidemic



An epidemic of broken bones caused by osteoporosis is unavoidable unless older Americans start getting the calcium, Vitamin D and physical activity needed to prevent it, the U.S. Surgeon General warned.

Half of all Americans older than 50 will run the risk of fractures from osteoporosis by 2020 unless they do the right things.

The report included ominous statistics: 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, another 34 million are at risk of developing the condition and 1.5 million Americans suffer an osteoporosis-related bone fracture every year.

The cost of those fractures is high in money and lives, the report said. About 20 percent of older people who have hip fractures die within a year, some 300,000 people are hospitalized every year with hip fractures, and the direct costs of osteoporotic fractures is $18 billion a year.

We all need to take better care of our bones. The good news is that you are never too young or too old to improve your bone health. With healthy nutrition, physical activity every day and regular medical checkups and screenings, Americans of all ages can have stronger bones and live longer, healthier lives.

The Surgeon General’s report warns that not only osteoporosis, but also other bone-weakening conditions such as Paget’s disease, can take a severe toll on the quality of life of older people. Paget’s disease of bone is a chronic skeletal disorder which may result in enlarged or deformed bones in one or more regions of the skeleton. Pain is the most common symptom.

Many patients have no idea their minor fracture was an indication of a larger problem. The report included recommendations on ways to maintain bone health: Avoid being overweight and engage in physical activity every day- at least 30 minutes daily for adults and 60 minutes for children, including weight bearing activities. Minimize the risk of falls by removing items that might cause tripping, improve lighting and get regular vision tests. Eat foods rich in calcium, such as milk, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, yogurt and cheese and get Vitamin D3 by exposure to sunlight and consumption of fortified milk and other foods.

Supplements can help achieve the desired intake of 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 200 international units of Vitamin D per day for adults under 50.

For postmenopausal women, 1,500 milligrams of calcium and 200 international units of Vitamin D per day is recommended. Women who have come off hormone therapy now are at increased risk of bone loss.

The preservation of bone density and bone health is important as a person ages. If you’re over 50 and haven’t had a bone density screen, please consider scheduling one.

And for goodness sake, start getting more calcium and vitamin d! A little dietary adjusment now may save you a lot of pain and trouble later.

This article was originally published November 1, 2004 in The St. Tammany News. > Health Articles > Women’s Health