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Fractured Bones: Screenings Pinpoint Surprising Risk Factors

Are you at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures? Some of the risk factors might surprise you.

Vertebral fractures: “Vertebral fractures are very predictive of future fractures, not only in the spine, but also in the hip, wrist or anywhere else in the body,” says Ahmad Z. Sheikh, MD, FACE, ECNU, CCD, endocrinologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “If you have a fracture in one location, it may happen in another location. Physicians want to stay on top of that to identify risk and prevent further fractures from happening.”

Diabetes and gastrointestinal conditions: “Other individuals at risk are those who have a history of type 1 diabetes, those who have some sort of malabsorption issue, such as celiac disease, or even individuals who have had serious gastrointestinal surgery that compromised their ability to absorb,” says Sheikh. “They may have a higher risk for osteoporosis than the general population because they’re losing calcium.”

Menstrual changes: “If women go longer than three months without having a period, that may put them at risk for osteoporosis, because we know that the estrogen that normally supports bone health may not be available,” says Sheikh. “Early menopause is another factor. If you’ve had a hysterectomy where you’ve gone through menopause before the age of 45, that’s a definite risk factor for osteoporosis.”

Ahmad Zaki Sheikh, MD, FACE, ECNU, CCD
Ahmad Zaki Sheikh, MD, FACE, ECNU, CCD

Heredity: “There’s an inherited component to osteoporosis, too,” says Sheikh. “That’s why we ask a question about whether your family members have had osteoporosis or not. It’s something we can’t really measure in a laboratory test, and it may inherently predispose you to having osteoporosis.”

That’s why screening is important. Physicians have several different assessments at their disposal to help determine a patient’s risk of osteoporosis and fractures. “We can use laboratory evaluations and also bone density evaluations, which are radiographic studies,” says Sheikh. “A vertebral fracture assessment is also important. Additionally, we utilize the FRAX score, which is a calculation based on several clinical risk factors that the patient may or may not have.”

For more information, call 573-331-3000.

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