The excessive curving of the spine known as a "dowager's hump" is one of the most common long-term effects of the brittle bone disease, osteoporosis. However, nearly half of the women who took part in a national online survey were unaware that this deformity is caused by osteoporosis.
"As women, we too often tolerate pain and deformity as `just part of getting old,'" said Amy Niles, president and CEO of the National Women's Health Resource Center, which conducted the survey. "Women need to start talking with their health care providers about osteoporosis prevention. They should also be aware that fractures associated with the disease are often undiagnosed and untreated. Osteoporosis, spinal fractures and severe back pain are not natural and inevitable consequences of aging."
A recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General, "Bone Health and Osteoporosis," warned that by 2020 half of all Americans over the age of 50 will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass if no action is taken by individuals at risk. Currently, more than 44 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis. The direct cost of osteoporotic fractures is estimated at more than $17 billion annually.
The Surgeon General's report called for individuals to take action to prevent osteoporosis and fractures caused by osteoporosis. Recommendations included discussing bone health with their health care providers to develop a plan that includes a bone mineral density test, a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, smoking cessation, reduced alcohol consumption, and regular strength training and weight-bearing exercise.
The NWHRC survey found that women are starting to make changes in their diet and exercise habits because of osteoporosis. Altogether, 85 percent of survey respondents say they have made some lifestyle changes, but only 9 percent said they had made major changes. Included in those changes are increases in their intake of calcium (73 percent of the respondents) and engaging in regular weight-bearing exercise (63 percent).
The survey also showed that only 15 percent knew about one of the available treatment options, a medical procedure called balloon kyphoplasty that can help to correct the deformity and reduce the pain of spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis.
"Women need to understand the risk factors associated with osteoporosis," according to Dr. Deborah Gold, associate professor of medical sociology, Duke University Medical Center and a trustee of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. "Their health care providers need to know that a broken bone after a minor bump or fall is a warning sign of osteoporosis."
Gold continued, "There are devastating physical and psychological affects from osteoporosis and spinal fractures. Fractures can cause anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and isolation. Physically, they affect how weight is distributed so there is greater stress on the spine, which can be a cause of future fractures. A dowager's hump can lead to difficulty breathing, walking, eating and sleeping. It is truly life threatening."
The results of the NWHRC survey were made public in conjunction with the meeting of the North American Spine Society in Chicago. The survey was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Kyphon Inc.
The National Women's Health Resource Center is the nation's leading independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women of all ages about health and wellness issues. Its programs include public education campaigns, publications and its Web site, fmxhosting.com/drupal635, a one-stop shop for women's health on the Web. It recently launched "HealthyWomen Take 10," an e-mail newsletter that gives women timely, reliable, easy-to-understand information on health-related lifestyle issues to add vitality and enjoyment to their lives.
Kyphon develops and markets devices designed to restore spinal function using minimally-invasive technology. The Company's products are used in Balloon Kyphoplasty, a minimally-invasive procedure to treat spinal fractures caused by osteoporosis and cancer. For more information, visit the Company's Web site at http://www.kyphon.com.
For more information:
Beverly A. Dame, 888-406-9472
Nanette Pietroforte, 310-577-7870 x 161
Click here to view Fact Sheet: Key Findings from The National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) Survey on Osteoporosis and Fracture Risk