By 2020, One In Two Americans Over Age 50 Will Be At Risk For Fractures From Osteoporosis Or Low Bone Mass
The Surgeon General issues first-ever report on nation's bone health
U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., warned today in a new report that by 2020, half of all American citizens older than 50 will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis and low bone mass if no immediate action is taken by individuals at risk, doctors, health systems, and policymakers. This new report, "Bone Health and Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General" says that 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, the most common bone disease, while another 34 million are at risk for developing osteoporosis. And each year, roughly 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis.
This report is the first-ever Surgeon General's report on the topic of bone health. Osteoporosis and other bone diseases, such as Paget's disease and osteogenesis imperfecta can lead to a downward spiral in physical health and quality of life, including losing the ability to walk, stand up, or dress, and can lead to premature death.
"This report will shape the way we approach, talk, and act about bone diseases," HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "The more we learn, the more we realize that so many diseases are preventable, from obesity, to many types of cancer, and now bone disease. I want to thank Dr. Carmona and all the scientists and researchers who worked on this report. I look forward to the impact this new information will make in the health of communities."
Other findings in the report include:
"Osteoporosis isn't just your grandmother's disease. We all need to take better care of our bones," Dr. Carmona said. "The good news is that you are never too old or too young to improve your bone health. With healthy nutrition, physical activity every day, and regular medical check-ups and screenings, Americans of all ages can have strong bones and live longer, healthier lives. Likewise, if it's diagnosed in time, osteoporosis can be treated with new drugs that help prevent bone loss and rebuild bone before life-threatening fractures occur."
According to the new report, osteoporosis is a "silent" condition because many Americans are unaware that their bone health is in jeopardy. In fact, four times as many men and nearly three times as many women have osteoporosis than report having the condition. One of the most dangerous myths about osteoporosis is that only women need to worry about bone health. Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races, and while bone weakness manifests in older Americans, strong bones begin in childhood.
The Surgeon General's report is a call for Americans to take action to improve and maintain healthy bones. The report includes recommendations on what Americans can do to decrease the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
These recommendations include:
"I always worried about heart disease and cancer, but was never concerned about the health of my bones," said Abby Perelman, who is being treated for osteoporosis. "I wish I knew then what I know now -- that a healthy diet and physical activity can make bones stronger and healthier."
The report also calls on health care professionals to help Americans maintain healthy bones by evaluating risks for patients of all ages, recommending bone density tests for women over the age of 65 and for any man or woman who suffers even a minor fracture after the age of 50. In addition, the report calls on health care professionals to look for "red flags" that may indicate that someone is at risk, including people who are under 50 who have had multiple fractures, or patients who take medications or have a disease that can lead to bone loss.
"All health care professionals need to be aware of the early indicators of bone disease," said Dr. Lawrence Raisz of the University of Connecticut Health Center, one of the scientific editors of the report. "Many of my patients had no idea their minor fracture was an indication of a larger problem. The health care system can do a better job of helping patients protect themselves from bone disease."
In addition to the release of the report, the Surgeon General has published a companion "People's Piece" specifically written for the American people. The magazine-style, full-color booklet offers ready-to-use information on how people can improve their bone health. This is the second People's Piece that Dr. Carmona has produced as part of his commitments to improving the health literacy of Americans and providing the best scientific information available in a way that everyone can understand and use to live longer, healthier lives. The first People's Piece discussed the health consequences of smoking and was released in May 2004.
The free People's Piece, The 2004 Surgeon General's Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means To You, is available by calling toll free 1-866-718-BONE or visiting www.surgeongeneral.gov.
"Thirty years ago, doctors thought weak bones and osteoporosis were a natural part of aging, but today we know they are not. We can do a lot to prevent bone disease," said Dr. Carmona. "Everyone has a role to play in improving bone health, and this report is a starting point for national action on bone health. Let's get started by taking action today in homes, health care settings, and communities across our nation."
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last Revised: October 14, 2004