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Nurse Practitioners Changing the Trajectory of Osteoporosis


By Alex Fernandez

Improve osteoporosis outcomes and prevent fractures with these new diagnosis and treatment updates.

Every year on October 20, World Osteoporosis Day raises global awareness of the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and related musculoskeletal diseases. According to a journal article published in the National Library of Medicine, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men aged 50 years and over worldwide will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. Osteoporosis, which causes bones to become weak and fragile, is the most common chronic metabolic bone disease. Osteoporotic bones can break easily, even as a result of a minor fall, a bump, a sneeze or a sudden movement. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life-threatening and a major cause of pain and long-term disability.

However, by employing new diagnosis and treatment updates for osteoporosis, nurse practitioners (NPs) can identify and screen at-risk individuals for osteoporosis early on, while more effectively treating those patients who are already facing the effects of the disease. In anticipation of World Osteoporosis Day, review current recommendations for this potentially life-threatening illness and read on to learn the latest osteoporosis statistics, effects and treatments.

Recognizing the Toll of Osteoporosis

More than 14 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis, and each year, there will be 2 million fractures due to the disease. Fractures can occur in any bone but happen most often in bones of the hip, spine and wrist. Up to 66% of vertebral fractures go undiagnosed and there is an eight-fold increase in the risk of mortality after a vertebral fracture. Many of these fractures are preventable.

Although osteoporosis is seen in all age groups and genders, it is more common in older people and women. This is because after bone mass reaches its peak at puberty, the resorption rate exceeds the formation rate, and the loss of bone mass starts to occur. Osteoporosis is currently the primary cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and in older men, and as the population continues to age and enjoy a longer life span, osteoporosis is anticipated to take an increasingly greater toll.

Assessing the Effects of Osteoporosis

According to the National Institutes of Health, osteoporosis is a “silent” disease for which one typically does not have symptoms, and may not even know they have the disease, until they break a bone. If osteoporosis is not diagnosed early, patients can become affected by vertebral fractures that may result in severe back pain, loss of height or spine malformations such as a stooped or hunched posture.

Do you have patients seeking treatment for chronic pain related to their fractures or other orthopedic conditions? Discover ways to improve chronic pain outcomes and set appropriate expectations among your patients by reading this interview with chronic pain expert, Brett Snodgrass, FNP-C, CPE, ACHPN, FAANP, on the AANP News Feed. Next, explore case studies in orthopedic management for examples of ways to optimize care for orthopedic patients in a variety of settings.

Answering the Call to Improve Osteoporosis Outcomes

The underdiagnosis and undertreatment of osteoporosis are major health concerns across the globe. According to an article in The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, “an analysis of medical claims for more than 1 million women aged 50 or greater with no prior history of osteoporosis or hip fracture demonstrated screening rates of 12.8%-26.5%, with the highest rates associated with patients aged 65-79.” Despite the rising number of people affected by the disease, many patients who would benefit from osteoporosis screening are not currently being screened, and untreated patients suffer from avoidable complications.

NPs are uniquely positioned to change the trajectory of osteoporosis diagnosis and treatment. In addition to screening women over age 65 and men over age 70 for osteoporosis, inform patients about common risk factors and discuss preventive steps they can take to reduce bone loss and prevent fractures, such as:

  • Ensuring they have proper nutrition.
  • Engaging in healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Preventing falls.

Enroll in This Free Activity to Learn the Latest in Osteoporosis Management

Are you looking to improve osteoporosis outcomes in your community while earning free continuing education (CE) credit? Enroll in Breaking News: Updates in Osteoporosis Management in the AANP CE Center to review the evidence that supports screening for at-risk individuals, determine factors that identify patients as at-risk for fragility fractures and integrate strategies for testing at-risk patients.

Enroll Now

You are not alone on the road to advancing osteoporosis treatment. Collaborate with your peers, share valuable insights and stay up to date on osteoporosis and bone health by joining the AANP Orthopedics Specialty Practice Group. Then, review the latest updates on osteoporosis management by listening to episode 56 of the NP Pulse: The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner® podcast.