Osteoporosis is a serious public health problem for our neighbours to the north; both men and women.
Some 44 million people in the United States are at risk for developing this potentially debilitating disease, which is responsible for 1.5 million fractures (broken bones) annually.
Fractures from falls are often the first sign of the disease, and can affect any bone, but the most common locations are the hip, spine, and wrist.
Breaks in the hip and spine are of special concern because they almost always require hospitalisation and major surgery.
In the Cayman Islands, while numbers are not as high, people, particularly women approaching menopause are at risk for developing the disease. The good news is that although osteoporosis can be a devastating disease, it is manageable.
“Along with maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, good prevention begins with understanding your risk,” said Dr. Mitchell Sheinkop, a board certified orthopaedic surgeon specialising in disorders of the hips and knees.
“If you are over the age of 55 or have broken a bone after a minor bump or fall, you should talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for developing osteoporosis,” Dr. Sheinkop said.
He added, “While women are also more at risk than men, and while bone loss occurs as we age, osteoporosis can be detected early and more frequently than previously realised in men.”
Hormonal changes in men
Men also experience hormonal changes as they age and andropause, also referred to as “male menopause” is a real condition.
Men lose about one per cent of their testosterone every year, beginning at age 30.
Unlike female menopause, which usually runs its course in a matter of years, so-called “male menopause,” can last decades.
“Men who are experiencing “male menopause” are also at risk for developing osteoporosis”, said Dr. Sheinkop.
“I would recommend any man, who has had any fractures after the age of 55 to talk to a healthcare provider about their osteoporosis risk,” he said.
A bone mineral density test (DEXA Scan) can tell whether or not you have osteoporosis before you experience any symptoms.
“The DEXA machine is an excellent piece of technology for assessing your bone health. It is easy and painless and available right here on the island. I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be at risk for developing osteoporosis to talk to a healthcare provider immediately”, says Dr. Sheinkop.
Tips for managing osteoporosis
Know your risks and your family history: talk to a health care provider if you are over the age of 55, have a close relative that has had osteoporosis or have undergone menopause before the age of 45. Men, who are also over the age of 55, should talk to a health care provider about their osteoporosis risks too.
Eat calcium rich foods: such as broccoli, kale and local greens such as callaloo. Tamarinds are also a great source of calcium.
Go outside and enjoy the sunshine: there is an abundance of sunshine all year round in the Cayman Islands, so know no one should be deficient in vitamin D. New studies suggest that sensible amounts of sun exposure daily may prevent bone loss.
Stay active: a good exercise programme, such as swimming and strength training can improve bone health.
Get tested: post menopausal women or people with a family history of osteoporosis should have a bone density scan. A Bone Density Scan (DEXA) is a painless and simple test that uses a minimum amount of radiation.