This op-ed initially appeared in The Hill on October 20, 2022.
To be taught extra about how one can increase consciousness in regards to the significance of DXA scans for all girls, go to our YesYouScan web page.
America has a bone well being disaster. Greater than 50 million Individuals are susceptible to growing osteoporosis, and 10 million have already got the situation. A full 80 p.c of these people are girls. In actual fact, one in 5 girls over 50 will get the illness throughout their lifetime.
But, regardless of its prevalence, osteoporosis is called a “silent illness.” The moniker comes from the truth that folks usually have more and more brittle bones susceptible to fracture with out figuring out it or feeling their bone density lower. However the identify can also be apt as a result of there’s nonetheless too little consciousness about osteoporosis, stop or delay its onset, and what to do as soon as it’s been recognized.
However on this World Osteoporosis Day, we are able to change that. And we should attempt as a result of the results of osteoporosis-related fractures are extreme for too many ladies, their households and our nation as an entire.
Our bones are made up of dwelling tissue, which is frequently being damaged down and changed. When the physique loses outdated bone tissue extra shortly than it regenerates new tissue, that’s when osteoporosis units in. At this stage, the remaining bones can change into so weak and fragile that even easy actions like stretching, twisting, bending in the direction of the ground, coughing, bumping into one thing or a small fall could cause a damaged bone.
These damaged bones — most frequently of the hip and backbone — are dangerously widespread. In line with a 2021 report commissioned by the Bone Well being and Osteoporosis Basis, about 1.8 million Medicare beneficiaries suffered roughly 2.1 million osteoporotic fractures in 2016. And simply final month, researchers in Hong Kong discovered that hip fractures will nearly double across the world by 2050.
Ladies are particularly in danger for osteoporosis and sometimes expertise speedy bone loss, significantly within the 5 to seven years after menopause, as their estrogen ranges drop. Ladies might even lose as much as 20 p.c of their bone density on this quick timeframe alone. Finally, 50 p.c of ladies are prone to break a bone from the illness.
Hip fractures are significantly pernicious. Ladies’s threat of fracturing a hip from osteoporosis is the same as the chance of breast, uterine and ovarian most cancers mixed. Sure, you learn that proper.
And that’s not all. Extra girls die annually from issues following hip fractures than from breast most cancers. Amongst girls over 50 who break a hip, 25 p.c die within the 12 months following their damage, whereas 50 p.c by no means stroll independently once more and 20 p.c should completely transfer to a nursing dwelling. All informed, these osteoporotic fractures trigger extra hospitalizations and higher healthcare prices than coronary heart assault, stroke or breast most cancers in girls 55 and older.
The financial burdens of this illness are vital, too. The whole yearly expense of offering take care of Medicare beneficiaries that suffer osteoporotic fractures was estimated at $57 billion in 2018. That quantity consists of direct medical prices in addition to oblique societal prices that come from misplaced productiveness and casual caregiving. These prices are anticipated to balloon to greater than $95 billion in 2040. With America’s ageing inhabitants, this could alarm everybody.
However it doesn’t need to be this manner. Managing osteoporosis is effectively inside our capabilities. We all know that diets wealthy in calcium and vitamin D can assist maintain bones robust. Avoiding caffeine, extra salt, alcohol and smoking — all of which might both contribute to bone loss or improve the chance of fracture — is important. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening train is vital, too. In actual fact, power coaching can really each mood and delay bone loss in addition to construct bones again stronger.
However these aren’t our solely instruments. Preventive bone density scans, or dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scans (DXA for brief), are straightforward, painless and cheap. They’re additionally extremely efficient. DXA scans can higher predict damaged bones than ldl cholesterol testing can predict coronary heart assaults or taking somebody’s blood stress can predict a stroke. Because it seems, Medicare beneficiaries who’ve a DXA bone density check undergo 35 p.c fewer hip fractures and 22 p.c fewer fragility fractures.
The difficulty is just too few people who find themselves in danger for osteoporosis are getting these scans. In 2007, Medicare minimize its reimbursement for scans carried out in a physician’s workplace and there was a drastic drop within the variety of sufferers receiving them ever since. In line with the Fracture Prevention Coalition, the decreased entry to DXA scans conveniently carried out in a physician’s workplace since 2008 has meant that 7 million fewer girls had their bone density examined. This quantity will solely improve except one thing is finished.
These alarming statistics are why it’s completely vital for Congress to go H.R. 3517, the Rising Entry to Osteoporosis Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries Act of 2021, at once. This invoice will improve entry to DXA scans for Medicare beneficiaries by reinstating Medicare funding for the process. When sufferers are extra shortly and precisely recognized and handled, they are going to be higher outfitted to maintain themselves and their long-term well being. Elevated testing may even decrease our nation’s astronomical healthcare prices by lowering the variety of avoidable osteoporotic fractures.
The hundreds of thousands of individuals, and ladies particularly, for whom osteoporosis is such a critical threat, can’t wait any longer for this invoice. Their well being, and sometimes their lives, rely on it.