Raising Awareness of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis

Dr. Mary Oates, a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, discusses the importance of raising awareness of postmenopausal osteoporosis and its connection to fracture. She also talks about how to identify the warning signs and discuss a prescription treatment option that may help.

Dr. Mary Oates is a board certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialist and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis in her Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo offices.

Dr. Oates is the founder of the Marian and French Hospital Osteoporosis Centers and fracture liaison services and is actively involved with community education and outreach projects aimed at the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

In addition, Dr. Oates is a published author in the field of osteoporosis and body composition. She is on the Bone Research and Clinical Advisory panel to NASA to advise on bone and muscle health during space flight. She is an active member or the International Society of Clinical Densitometry, and serves as the co-chairman for the ISCD body composition committee. She is a new trustee for the National Osteoporosis Foundation and serves as The Accountable Executive for Research for Dignity Health of The Central Coast service area and is the new Medical Director for Dignity Health Research Institute for California and Nevada.

She has enjoyed opportunities in the past to consult for the NFL, the US Olympic Training Center, the International Olympic Medical Committee, and the NBC TV show “The Biggest Loser.”

In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dogs on the beautiful Central Coast of California.


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. Here the United States, nearly one in two women over the age of 50 is going to have a fragility fracture. That’s a low impact fracture that’s often the result of a fall from either standing height or even lower sometime in her remaining lifetime. Now if you’re a woman listening over 50 who’s postmenopausal, such a fracture might not be the result of a clumsy act, it might be due to postmenopausal osteoporosis. Now to help raise awareness, Bone and Joint Action Week is held every year at this time and joining us here on the program now to talk about how to identify some of the warning signs and to discuss a prescription treatment option for postmenopausal osteoporosis is Dr. Mary Oates, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. Welcome to the program Dr. Oates, thank you for joining us.

Dr. Mary Oates: Thank you Neal.

Neal: Great. Well let’s tell our listeners first what is postmenopausal osteoporosis and does it differ from osteoporosis in general?

Dr Oates: Well osteoporosis is characterized by a decrease in the bone mineral density and the strength of our bones. And particularly, postmenopausal relates to the fact that during and after menopause, women lose the protective effect of estrogen on their bones so they have even a more accelerated bone loss after menopause and this can lead this accelerated bone loss can lead to fractures and as you described, it’s not just a clumsy fall. Healthy bone should be strong enough to resist the forces of tripping and falling over a curb. It’s the unhealthy or the osteoporosis, the thin bones that results in a fracture from a minor fall.

Neal: So it’s the osteoporosis that needs to be either addressed or I guess avoided if at all possible in order to make a difference without any treatment, right?

Dr Oates: You’re exactly right. The orthopedic surgeon is going to fix that local fracture but we need to address the underlying osteoporosis and most women dismiss the serious nature of that fracture. They think that it’s going to heal and everything’s fine but they deserve an evaluation for underlying osteoporosis.

Neal: What about the notion that getting these weak bones, this fragility is just a normal aging process and kind of maybe not talking about it openly with your healthcare provider. Is a lot of that going on?

Dr Oates: It is. Unfortunately, one out of two women will suffer a fracture after the age of 50 and we know that this is not being talked about because the majority of women are not on treatment or aren’t even evaluated for the osteoporosis. And not only is it common, but it’s serious. We know that there are more hospital admissions for fractures associated with osteoporosis, these fragility fractures, than for very serious diseases such as heart attack, breast cancer and stroke combined so it’s serious and it’s unrecognized.

Neal: Sow as I mentioned every year at this time, mid-October, to help raise awareness Bone and Joint Action Week has been declared. What is your involvement in getting awareness out and educating healthcare providers and women about getting that conversation started  so that we can address osteoporosis and some of the women that aren’t talking about it?

Dr Oates: Well that’s why I’m here today. I’m teaming up with Radius Health to help increase awareness and education for both patients for postmenopausal women and healthcare providers because we both need to address this in a timely manner. Now luckily, we have treatment options. There are generally two classes of medications, we have anti-resorptive which decrease the bone loss and maintain bone and we have anabolics which stimulate the body’s natural bone building cells to make new bone. Now with any medication, there may be side effects. With this medication, there may be a lower blood pressure, a feeling of dizziness and some increased calcium in the urine and in the blood. And in animal testing studies, some rats did show an increase in bone cancer although in humans, we have not seen this. And to limit this risk, we do not recommend more than two years of any anabolic agent for the treatment of osteoporosis. One of the medications that specifically is an anabolic is Tymlos®.

Neal: Is every woman going to develop osteoporosis or are there some differing risk factors that may be exists genetically or otherwise to put some women at risk and others not so much?

Dr Oates: Well Neal, you’re right. We do know that about 80% of osteoporosis is probably genetic but building the best bone we can from ages 0 to about 30 is very important. Other risk factors of course are our age, our postmenopausal status. But really, the most predictive issue is that first fracture so when a woman breaks her wrist or hip or spine, she needs to be evaluated for underlying osteoporosis.

Neal: When you’re talking about evaluations, is there anything that a woman can do who is not postmenopausal or maybe not in the age range to maybe give her a heads up, maybe some of the warning signals that could possibly appear before menopause?

Dr Oates: Well again, the best course of action is exercise and a healthy diet with calcium and  vitamin D. But after the age of menopause, that’s the best time to get a DEXA scan, which is a bone mineral density scan to look for underlying osteoporosis before that fracture occurs.

Neal: Where can our listeners go and get some more information about postmenopausal osteoporosis if you would?

Dr Oates: Well the best place to go is to talk to your healthcare provider, but we also have a nice website that you can visit bonenews.com for lots of information about postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Neal: Dr. Oates, thank you so much for joining us here on Health Professional Radio today. It has been a pleasure, thank you.

Dr Oates: Thank you Neal.

Neal: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. Transcripts and audio of the program are available at hpr.fm and healthprofessionalradio.com.au

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