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March 1, 2011 > Learn About New Treatment Options for Osteoporosis

Learn About New Treatment Options for Osteoporosis

Free Seminar Will Feature Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Osteoporosis is a common condition that causes the bones to become weak and break more easily. About 10 million Americans live with osteoporosis and about 34 million are at risk of getting it, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Estimates suggest that about half of all women and a quarter of men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

"The good news is there are a lot of treatment options available today for people with osteoporosis," said Dr. Barry Shibuya, a rheumatologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "There are a number of medications on the market that can help to keep the bones from thinning."

Shibuya will join Maureen Parent of LIFE Eldercare in Fremont for a seminar titled "Osteoporosis Update: Learn About Diagnosis and Treatment Options" on Friday, March 4, from 12 to 2 p.m. Co-sponsored by Washington Senior Care, the free seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (800) 963-7070 for more information.

Shibuya will focus on the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, which is most common among older women, as well as steroid-induced osteoporosis. Medications that contain steroids like prednisone, used to treat a number of ailments such as asthma and arthritis, can damage the bones, he said.


Get an Accurate Diagnosis

"It used to be that we only looked at your bone density T-score to diagnose osteoporosis," Shibuya said. "Now we look at your T-score and your other risk factors for fracture. The fracture risk calculator considers factors like age, height, weight, and previous personal or family history of fracture in conjunction with your T-score and then calculates your risk of developing a fracture over the next 10 years."

According to Shibuya, the fracture risk calculator gives physicians a more accurate assessment of your risk for future fractures so they can determine if treatment is needed beyond what is recommended for everyone to prevent osteoporosis, which includes calcium, vitamin D, weight-bearing exercises, and fall prevention education.

"Before the fracture risk calculator was available, we were treating people with low T-scores who may not have needed medication," he said. "As with most medications, there can be side-effects from long-term use, so we only want to prescribe them when needed."

Shibuya will discuss some of the medications that are available today to treat osteoporosis. He will explain how these medications work and some of their side-effects, including upset stomach.

"These medications can help to lower your risk for fractures," he said. "Preventing falls is important for everyone, particularly as we age, but it is critical for people with osteoporosis.


Prevent Falls and Fractures

Falling is the number one cause of injury death for people over the age of 60, according to Parent, who coordinates LIFE Eldercare's nationally recognized Fall Prevention program. She will offer a number of alarming statistics that show how devastating and life-altering a fall can be as well as tips for preventing falls.

"Falls cost our country more than $21 billion each year," she said. "Every 18 seconds a senior is transported to the emergency room for a fall. This is a huge issue, especially as baby boomers enter their 60s and 70s."

She said there are a number of factors that increase seniors' risk for falling, including vision problems, poor balance and gait, taking more than four medications, and home hazards. LIFE Eldercare offers an in-home program for frail homebound seniors in the Tri-City area that addresses each of the major risk factors for falls, including balance and gait strengthening, as well as home safety checks that can help reduce the risk of falling in your own home.

"The biggest single issue is that over time, the majority of us do less and less, causing our muscles to weaken," Parent said. "This affects our gait and balance, increasing our risk of falling. You need to continue moving your body. Walking and gentle calisthenics can drastically reduce your risk of falling. Activities that improve balance like Tai Chi are also beneficial."

She said it's also important to pay attention to simple movements, like getting out of bed in the morning or getting up from a chair. It's important to make sure you are awake and oriented before you get out of bed, she added.

"We teach people how to get out of bed and up from a chair properly to avoid falling," Parent said. "These are common daily activities that can be dangerous."

To learn more about the free Fall Prevention program offered by LIFE Eldercare, visit www.lifeeldercare.org. To find out about other seminars offered by Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com.

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