About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and many don’t know they are at risk of developing weak bones. Sunday, October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day.
“Anybody over the age of 50 years who has risk factors for osteoporosis should talk to their doctor about getting screened,” said Dr. Angus B. Worthing, chairman of the American College of Rheumatology’s Government Affairs Committee. “All women over the age of 65 and men over 70 should receive a screening test called the DXA scan, which is a simple kind of X-ray test.”
For women, the chances of breaking a bone are greater than that of a heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
“Osteoporosis literally means porous bone,” said Dr. Worthing. “It’s actually a painless disease. People don’t know they have porous bones, until either they get screened by a DXA scan or until, unfortunately, they break a bone. It can be a devastating problem, because more than a fifth of older adults don’t survive the year after breaking a hip.”
A recent study in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that increasing DXA screenings could prevent 3.7 million fractures and reduce medical costs by nearly 55 billion dollars through 2040.
“A person lies down and gets a couple of different X-rays taken,” said Dr. Worthing. “A computer figures out how much calcium is in a couple of different target places in their body, their hip and their spine, usually. Doctors can interpret this information to figure out how porous their bones are, how fragile their bones are.”
A bill is currently in Congress to ensure Medicare Part B patients have access to DXA screenings.