Osteoporosis Easily Diagnosed in Women Suspected to Have Low Bone Denisty
~ September 1998 No.48 ~
A recent article published in the Journal of Clinical Densitometry indicates that bone density measurements can reliably be used to diagnose osteoporosis. The authors from Wayne State University in Detroit point out that fewer than 25% of cases of osteoporosis are currently identified. This in part may be due to the fact that at the present time there is some question about the best bones to be used to identify osteoporosis. This has led in the past to misdiagnosis and under estimation of the prevalence of osteoporosis. However if low bone density is suspected, a routine X-ray can reliably determine the degree of osteoporosis.
Bone mineral density measurements are used to evaluate the progress of osteoporosis. These measurements are then compared to measurements done on healthy young humans who serve as a reference. Low bone mass is termed osteopenia. As the bone mass decreases further, osteoporosis develops. The Detroit doctors looked at bone density measurements done at three sites in the body : the forearm, the lumbar spine and the femoral (leg) neck. Data from 537 white women ages 50 to 80 and over were included in the study. All the patients had been referred to the clinic because of their suspected risk of osteoporosis.
As the age of the women increased the percent of confirmed osteoporosis cases also increased. In the age group 50-59 31.3 % of the patients were classified as osteoperotic at one or more of the measurement sites; while 81.5% of the women 80 or older were osteoporotic. Overall 53.3% of the women had osteoporosis at one or more sites while the number of misdiagnoses was small. Even subjects that were not diagnosed as osteoporotic were found to have bone mineral loss severe enough to be classified as osteopenic.
The authors cautioned that theirs was not a typical population of patients and so their results may not be applicable to the general population, but they were encouraged that when a bone mineral loss was suspected, it usually was confirmed by X-ray absorptiometry.
osteoporosis appears to be caused by the interaction of diet components - mainly calcium and phosphorus, hormones and physical activity. It is aggravated by a variety of factors including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle.
At the present time most health bodies are recommending that women increase their consumption of calcium. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to do this is to eat more dairy products. Milk, cheese and fermented milk products such as yogurt and kefir are all good sources of calcium. It is generally believed that the women in particular should be consuming adequate levels of calcium throughout their life as a way of preventing osteoporosis.