Osteoporosis affects 8 million women and 2 million men in the United States.
Each year, an estimated 1.5 million people experience a fracture from a fall because of osteoporosis.
According to a National Hospital Discharge Survey in 2005, 68 percent of fractures that required hospitalizations were due to falls, followed by motor vehicle accidents at 21 percent, sports injuries at 4 percent and assaults at 3 percent.
The mortality rate associated with osteoporosis-related fractures is greater than the rates associated with breast cancer and cervical cancer combined.
Learn about Lawrence's new Healthy Bones Team and what it hopes to accomplish. Also, a national expert talks about how a similar program made a big impact in Southern California.
With the rapidly aging population, the problem of osteoporosis is reaching epidemic proportions and raising concerns nationwide and in the Lawrence area.
McLouth resident Judy Schwinn, 57, knows firsthand the dangers of the disease, which runs in her family. Her mother and sister also have it. Schwinn began having bone density tests at age 50.
About four years ago, an X-ray revealed she had fractured her hip.
“I had gone a long time just limping and hurting in my joints, and I just thought I was getting older,” she said. “I wasn’t aware that my bones were that bad.”
A Lawrence doctor prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements to see whether the fracture would heal naturally. They waited three months, but it didn’t.
She had surgery, which was followed by three months of physical therapy. She continues to take supplements and closely monitor her bone density level.
Schwinn said the fracture was painful, but having weak bones doesn’t necessarily hurt.
“I find that I am limiting myself a little bit because of my knowledge that I can’t do some of the activities that I would have normally have done when I was younger,” she said. “I am very cautious when I am climbing on a chair to hang a new picture. I worry more — rather than being in pain.”
Schwinn, a longtime registered nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, wishes she would have taken better care of herself and her bones earlier in life.
“I can’t say that I was a good milk drinker when I was young,” she said. “I didn’t get the calcium that I needed when I was young.”
Unfortunately, she’s not alone.
“As a nurse, I see not just aging people, but young people with fractures that are coming to the hospital,” she said.
On Friday, there were four people hospitalized at Lawrence Memorial Hospital with hip fractures. Dr. Doug Stull, of OrthoKansas in Lawrence, estimated that the practice's surgeons saw between 150 and 300 patients with hip fractures annually.
According to the National Hospital Discharge survey, hip fractures are most common at 19.6 percent. Other types of fractures that require hospitalization: upper extremity, 17.2 percent; spine, 13.1 percent; ankle, 7.4 percent; rib, 7.3 percent; pelvis, 6.8 percent; face, 6.5 percent; tibia-fibula, 6.3 percent; skull, 5.7 percent; femoral shaft, 4.1 percent; foot, 3 percent, and other, 3 percent.
Schwinn hopes a new Healthy Bones Team that recently formed in Lawrence can make a difference.
“If this program could help people start sooner, then maybe I won’t have to take care of them with a fracture,” she said.