But they’re not. Because osteoporosis, called the ‘silent killer’ (as it attacks beneath the surface and creeps up without notice), still does not get the attention and medical funding of other more known diseases.
However, a new study indicates that there may be a quick, affordable way to predict and prevent hip fractures that is accessible to all: a simple height test.
Could this be true? Let’s see…
At Risk Of Stating the Obvious…
According to a new study at The Ohio State University Medical Center, height loss in later adulthood is a ‘powerful predictor of osteoporosis’.(2)
Says Dr. Seth Kantor, lead author of the study (published in the Journal of Clinical Densitometry):
“Our findings suggest that a very simple test for all patients – current height compared to peak adult height – can predict the need for a bone mineral density scan to check for osteoporosis.”
Osteoporosis is a major health risk and must be given greater attention because 30 million American women either have it, or are at risk for it AND it is responsible for 300,000 hip fractures every year.(2)
Kantor goes on to say:
“Broken hips can be catastrophic for elderly patients – nearly 50 percent of sufferers never return to normal function, 25 percent require nursing home care and 20 percent die of infection, blood clots or other complications within six months after the fractures.”
The average age of the 2100 women studied were 60. It was found that those who were 3” less than their peak height were 10 times more likely to have osteoporosis than women who had lost only an inch or less.
The connection they studied is logical, as osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue.
This OSU Medical Center study is being applauded as a free and easy-to-do test that as Kantor states will “help physicians in an outpatient setting decide whether a patient should undergo a bone density scan.”
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire
While the study results are interesting, there is risk involved in the interpretation and implementation. Because if a patient is only instructed to get a DEXA test after they have lost 3 inches of height (and are 60 years old) and if the prognosis is osteoporosis, then it may not be too late to do something about it – but it definitely is late.
And using significant height loss as an indicator for your overall bone health is akin to waiting for your car to start sputtering to realize you need gas – rather than paying attention to the gage and looking for a filling station.
Once upon a time there were no DEXA tests to measure bone density, so there was no accurate way to know if osteoporosis was creeping up. However, modern science has provided a safe and accurate way to peek inside your body to learn how strong – or weak- your bones are.
When Should You Be Concerned About Bone Loss?
Most women are usually instructed to DEXA test, then supplement and make lifestyle adjustments for bone loss after age 40, because modern science has discovered that rapid bone loss begins at this age.
However, though it’s not as preventative as a DEXA test, there is still some value in this height test predictor. Because many people (possibly due to DEXA tests being out of reach financially) only discover they have osteoporosis when they fracture a hip.
15 Osteo Warning Signs
If you (or a loved one, or a friend) are just unable to get to a DEXA machine for whatever reasons, there are still more ways (in addition to a height test) to foresee your risk of osteoporosis.
If any or all of the following 15 bone influencers apply to you, it will increase your chance of osteoporosis:
1. Gender – Women are much more likely to get osteoporosis than men.
2. Age – The older you get, the more bone you lose, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
3. Cultural Group – You’re at most risk of osteoporosis if you’re caucasian or of Asian descent.
4. Family Tree – A parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at increased risk, more so if there is a family history of hip fractures.
5. Body size – Women (and men) who have small frames tend to have a greater risk as they have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
6. Thyroid issues – Excessive thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. If your thyroid is overactive, or taking too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid can increase bone loss.
7. Sex hormones – The falling of estrogen levels at menopause is one of the biggest risks for getting osteoporosis. During certain cancer treatments, females may also experience a drop in estrogen. Men have a gradual reduction in testosterone levels as they age, while some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels. These reduced sex hormone levels will weaken bones.
8. Glands – Overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands are also associated with osteoporosis.
9. Eating disorders – Those who have or had anorexia are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Low food intake will reduce the amount of calcium (and other trace minerals) ingested. In women, anorexia can stop menstruation, which also leads to bone loss.
10. Low calcium and trace mineral consumption – Getting too little calcium (and other trace minerals like magnesium, selenium, silica and more) throughout the growing years plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis. It contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
11. Gastrointestinal surgery – A reduction in your stomach size or removal of part of the intestine, or bypass, limits surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium (and other crucial trace minerals).
12. Sedentary Habits – Those who spend a lot of time sitting (desk jobs, coupled with lack of exercise) have a higher risk of osteoporosis than more-active people. Weight-bearing exercise is helpful for bones, and a lack of it will lead to bone loss.
13. Excessive alcohol – Because alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium, consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day over time increases your risk of osteoporosis.
14. Smoking – Smoking is linked to osteoporosis, though the reason why is not completely understood.
15. Long Term Sunscreen Use – Due to long term sunscreen use, most North Americans (especially ones who live in the northern weaker sun regions) are vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, so D deficiencies have been linked with osteoporosis risk.(3)
Does Osteoporosis = Shrinking?
Most people when they think of osteoporosis think of painful fractures, and the health complications that stem from them, like pneumonia and deep vein thrombosis.
However, to add insult to injury, osteoporosis can reduce you from the person you were in your prime, to a hunchback several inches shorter.
Because when you rapidly lose bone density, the shape and size of the bone is negatively affected.
Your Bone Health Is Up To You
The good news is, though none of us are exempt from aging, it is achievable with lifestyle and dietary changes to slow down (and reverse) bone loss and extend the number of active years you have.
And remember: if you get the feeling like other people are getting taller, it might be a sign to get a DEXA test!
But better than shrinking and reacting to the problem of osteoporosis is to preemptively add to your bone density with lots of fresh calcium (and trace mineral) rich foods, supplements (for ‘insurance’) and regular weight bearing exercise.
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