Osteoporosis can begin at any age | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Osteoporosis can begin at any age

Dr. William Cottrell
Special to the Tribune

Lake Tahoe residents tend to be younger and more physically fit, at least when they first move here. They generally suffer fewer chronic medical conditions that might interfere with their participation in the activities provided by the Tahoe environment – activities like hiking, snowmobiling, skiing and shoveling snow.

Because Tahoe residents are out doing risky stuff, they are more likely to subject their bones to higher mechanical energies that could result in a fracture. Falling on a trail or tumbling down a ski slope could easily be blamed as the mechanism of injury without giving a second thought to the actual strength of the skeleton. The skeleton might be weakened by osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a medical condition characterized by bone that is thinner than normal bone and prone to break at lower energies, generally a fall from body height. The definition does not include age. Osteoporosis is not just a disease of the elderly.

The first warning sign of a weaker skeleton is often a fracture, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons warns us that a fracture after age 50 is an osteoporotic fracture until proven otherwise. The AAOS takes that position because 50 percent of second fractures can be prevented if a cause of lower bone strength can be discovered and treated.

What causes osteoporosis? There are 100 known causes of abnormally weak bones. The search for a cause starts with an X-ray examination called bone mineral density test – the DXA BMD, followed by a history, physical and appropriate lab testing.

Some common contributors to osteoporosis include the rapid decline of sex hormone estrogen in women, the slower decline of testosterone in men, family history, smoking and excess alcohol, GI diseases and numerous medications.

Prevention or treatment of osteoporosis and the conditions that contribute to weaker bones can unquestionably reduce the significantly greater risk of fracture and keep you out there playing and working in the wonderful environment of Lake Tahoe.

Dr. William Cottrell treats osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease at Tahoe Orthapedics and Sports Medicine, a division of Barton Health. To schedule a consultation call 530-543-5490.

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