Welcome, Medicare Nation! My guest today is Dr. Andrea Singer, who is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Singer is the Director of Women’s Primary Care and the Director of the Bone Densitometry program. She is a trustee and clinical director for the National Osteoporosis Foundation and a national lecturer on the subject. Dr. Singer has published extensively on many women’s issues and is active in the education of medical students and residents at Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Singer is here to teach us about osteoporosis and how it affects our lives and health.
“Yes—I value this opportunity and hope it can be a call to action for your listeners. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones in which too much bone is lost or the body simply makes too little bone. The bones become weak and can break from minor falls or simple actions, even like bumping into furniture or sneezing!”
“It’s a very common disease and I’ll give you some statistics: 50% of people age 50 or older (54 million of the 99 million) have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. The number jumps to 65% of people age 65 or older who are at risk for broken bones.”
“They apply to both genders, even though it’s commonly thought of as a woman’s disease. Interestingly, men have a harder time recovering after a broken bone incident. Of the population age 50 or older, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their remaining years.”
“Risk factors can be broken into two categories: non-modifiable and modifiable factors. Non-modifiable risk factors are those that you can’t control, like age, gender, family history, low body weight/frame, and previous bone fractures. Modifiable risk factors include lack of calcium/vitamin D, inactive lifestyle, smoking, and too much alcohol. Regarding previous fractures, those of the spine, hip, wrist, shoulder, and pelvis are classic osteoporosis fractures. Also, certain medications for other disorders can increase bone loss. If you have these risk factors, you should speak to your health care provider and ask about being evaluated for osteoporosis.”
“Doctors will look at risk factors and do physical exams and lab tests, but the only real way to find osteoporosis is to do a bone density test. The lower the bone density, the greater the risk will be. The DXA scan is the bone density test, and is covered under the Welcome to Medicare package for women. Men are not covered for this test unless they fall into one of the following categories: on long-term steroid therapy, diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism, already on osteoporosis therapy, or has a vertebral abnormality or deformity found on an x-ray. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that men be screened at age 70, but the bone density test isn’t covered unless one of the four criteria is met.”
“Osteoporosis is under diagnosed, under recognized, and under treated. It’s thought of as ‘my grandmother’s disease,’ and many people don’t recognize the risk factors. In addition, there are fewer health providers doing DXA scans. For many, they lack the realization that broken bones over age 50 is a strong indicator of osteoporosis. We need to raise awareness so that people who are candidates for osteoporosis will get tested. I hope that this discussion empowers people to take charge of their bone health, be proactive and advocate for yourself to your doctor.”
“People need to get adequate calcium and vitamin D, either through diet or supplements. Weight-bearing, muscle-strengthening exercise can help stimulate the bones to remodel themselves and reduces the risk for falls. Fall prevention is a big part of treatment, and there are medications that can slow the bone breakdown or build new bone.”
“Prescription pills can be taken daily, weekly, or monthly. These are covered under Medicare Part D. Injections can be given daily, once yearly, or 4x/year; these are covered under Medicare Part B or Part A, depending on where they are administered. The important point is that there is a medication to fit everyone who is at risk.”
Visit the website of the National Osteoporosis Foundation: www.nof.org. You can also find the Foundation on Twitter: @osteoporosisnof or on Facebook. There is also a new app available on iTunes or Google Play: Food4Bones. Check out these valuable resources for more information!
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