Learn the A to Z of bones

November is Osteoporosis Month, and gives Canadians the opportunity to learn about their risk of breaking a bone.

A chance to learn about the disease will be offered on Monday, Nov. 14 when the Langley branch of Osteoporosis Canada presents the A to Z of osteoporosis and bone mineral testing density testing.

The event will be at the Langley Seniors Centre, 20605 51B Ave., from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The disease, characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, increases bone fragility and risk of fracture, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist.  Speakers are well known in the osteoporosis community and will give the latest information on the role of medication, calcium and vitamin D and exercise.

Osteoporosis is often known as ‘the silent thief’ because bone loss occurs without symptoms, and the risk in Canada of having a major fracture from osteoporosis is among the highest.

Osteoporosis is sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, because the names are similar. Osteoporosis is a bone disease, while osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue.

Every year, 30,000 Canadians break their hip, and many more Canadians suffer osteoporotic fractures of the spine, wrist,

shoulder and pelvis. Broken bones from osteoporosis are extremely common, more common than heart attack,

stroke and breast cancer combined.

At least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime.

The consequences of an osteoporotic fracture can be devastating:

• Both spine and hip fractures are associated with an increased risk of death;

• Twenty-eight percent of women and 37 per cent of men who suffer a hip fracture will die within the year;

• At least 15 to 25 per cent of hip fracture patients require admission to a nursing home;

• Chronic pain and long-term disability are frequent, and

• The very real fear of falling, especially during Canadian winters, results in limitation of activities, isolation from community, family and friends, and depression.

Osteoporotic fractures place a significant burden on caregivers, and there is also a huge burden on the healthcare system, which currently pays an estimated $1.9 billion annually to treat osteoporosis-related fractures.

• Once an individual has had an osteoporotic fracture, another is more likely to occur, especially if the person is not treated.

In spite of these known facts, a huge gap in follow-up care exists after a fracture. More than 80 per cent of fracture patients are never offered screening and/or treatment post-fracture, in spite of the fact that there are several effective medications that can reduce fracture risk by 30 to 70 per cent.

In comparison, 80 per cent of those who suffer a heart attack are treated with beta blockers. Without appropriate diagnosis and treatment, patients who have had a fracture remain at risk for more debilitating and life-threatening fractures.

The solution? Patients with hip, spine and other fractures from osteoporosis need appropriate assessment and treatment. If you have already had a fracture, you may be at high risk for another one. Any fracture after age 40 means you may need a bone mineral density test and a fracture risk assessment with FRAX or CAROC, two fracture-risk assessment tools available to doctors.

The Langley branch meets on the second Monday of the month at the Langley Senior Centre at 1.30 p.m.  Everyone is welcome, as it is a support group meeting, with speakers covering a variety of educational topics.

“Our mission is to educate on new ‘findings’ relating to osteoporosis,” said Margaret Willson, education chairman of the local branch.

“Knowledge is key to prevent falls and broken limbs, which if osteoporotic may take a long, painful time to heal. Information about the latest drugs and their advantages and, maybe, disadvantages is also available,” Willson added.

“We are all volunteers and just have the desire to help others who may or may not know that they have osteoporosis.”

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