News Release

May 5, 2005

Contact: Carolyn Pennington, 860-679-4864

Weak Bones Hurt Us All

UConn Health Center Physician Speaks Before Members of Congress

May Is Osteoporosis Month

FARMINGTON, CONN. – Osteoporosis weakens our bones and our country’s fiscal health. The medical expense for treating this debilitating bone disease is as high as 18 billion dollars each year. The cost of care for these patients and the work that is lost adds billions more.

On Wednesday, May 11, Lawrence Raisz, M.D., director of the Musculoskeletal Institute at the University of Connecticut Health Center and the scientific editor of the Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, will be in Washington, D.C., speaking before members of Congress in hopes of raising awareness about this critical issue.

“Many healthcare providers don’t make bone health a priority until a patient fractures a bone,” says Dr. Raisz, “even then, many don’t get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment and by that time the situation could be critical. When an older person breaks a hip, he or she is up to four times more likely to die within three months.”

Dr. Raisz and representatives from the National Osteoporosis Foundation will urge Congress to create a national action plan that would help implement the major recommendations made in the Surgeon General’s report on Bone Health.

Silently and without warning, bones may begin to deteriorate early in life if you do not have a healthy diet and the right kinds of physical activity. According to the Surgeon General, by 2020, half of all Americans will have weak bones unless we make lifestyle changes.

“You’re never too old or too young to improve your bone health,” says Dr. Raisz, “many people already have weak bones and don’t know it.”

Too many of us assume we are not at risk for bone loss or fractures. Because there are no obvious warning signs, even doctors often miss signs of the problem. Here are some clues that you are at risk:

  • You or an older relative have had a fracture
  • You have had illnesses or have been on medications that might weaken bones
  • You are underweight

“Each day calcium is deposited and withdrawn from your bones. If you don’t get enough calcium, you could be withdrawing more than you’re depositing,” according to Dr. Raisz. “That’s why children and teens need to build their bones early so they have a ‘savings account’ of calcium for later.”

The risk of osteoporosis is highest among women. It is also higher for Whites and Asians than other groups. However, it’s important to remember that it is a real risk for older men and women of all backgrounds. Testing bone density is the surest way to check for bone health.

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