Northeast November My Turn
Q: My mother suffered with osteoporosis. What are the symptoms of this debilitating disease, and whatâ€™s the best way to combat it?
A: “Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone tissue is lost, bone structure weakens and the risk of bone fracture increases,” says Lake Health physician, Dr. Thomas Eiswerth Jr. “Bone is live tissue and requires constant, active repair. Bone cells called osteoclasts act like demolition workers to break down old tissue, while osteoblasts act like construction workers to build new bone tissue. Osteoporosis occurs when this balance is disrupted, and bone breakdown exceeds bone building, causing a loss in bone mass.”
The main symptom of osteoporosis is the pain that usually results from a thinning backbone, or small compression fractures in back vertebrae. However, Eiswerth adds, osteoporosis begins silently. You might not experience pain or know you have osteoporosis until you fall and break a bone or have a bone density exam to check for it.
To prevent osteoporosis and improve bone mass, he recommends getting the required dosage of calcium and vitamin D to support bone construction, and do weight-bearing exercises to strengthen bones.
“Once it is detected,” Eiswerth says, “the best way to combat the disease is with bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva. Hormonal treatments, such as Evista and Forteo, are other options. These drugs bind with the osteoclasts to prevent bone breakdown, allowing osteoblasts to build bone tissue and increase bone mass.”
Dr. Thomas Eiswerth Jr. is an internal medicine physician in the Lake Health Physician Group. His special medical interests include diabetes, geriatrics and hypertension.
Calling the shots
Adult immunizations help protect older adults from illnesses that can be life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 90 percent of all influenza and pneumonia-related deaths occurred in adults age 65 and older in 1999. By getting an influenza immunization, seniors can reduce their risk of contracting the disease by 50 percent. The CDC reports that the best time to get the flu vaccine is between October 1 and mid-November. However, even after mid-November, older adults and people with chronic illnesses may still benefit from it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults need:
- Any age: a tetanus shot once every 10 years
- Age 50 or older: a flu shot every year
- Age 60 or older: the Zoster vaccine to prevent shingles
- Age 65 or older: the pneumonia vaccine, sometimes called PPV
Talk with your physician about what other vaccines you may need to stay healthy.