I opened the email from my primary care physician to read the results of my bone density test. I hoped an updated bone density test might bear information on why my leg is stiff. I was blindsighted to read the results. My doctor wrote:
I received your bone density test results and it does look like you have osteoporosis. Your bone density measurement study was consistent with osteoporosis, meaning your bones are more prone to breaking.
This is a big deal. Most people think of this related to breaking a hip. For your average person, that can be a life-altering event as 1 in 4 people with a hip fracture due to osteoporosis are dead in a year and 3 out of 4 are dead in 4 years.
Aside from hip fractures, people can also get compression fractures in the spine, which are tremendously painful and are the reason you may remember older people shrinking or being very hunched over as they got older.
Finally, your risk of breaking any bones (ankle, wrist, arm, etc.) is much higher after even just a regular fall.
If you are otherwise healthy and functional, you should do everything possible to prevent your chance of having an osteoporotic fracture.
Life style change can help slow progression of bone loss and reduce the occurrence of fractures.”
Pausing, as I did upon first read of the letter, I am surprised. I ask in disbelief “Are you kidding me?”
Research has shown that people with Parkinson’s disease are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis. A study of 166 Parkinson disease patients found that 51 percent of the female patients had osteoporosis; the rate of osteoporosis among women of the same age without Parkinson’s is about 25 percent. Among the males with Parkinson’s disease, 29 percent had osteoporosis, compared with about seven percent of men without Parkinson’s.
“Once people with Parkinson disease start having trouble with their gait, they should have a bone mass density scan to look for osteoporosis and get treatment if needed,” said study author and neurologist Mohammad Alhalabi of Damascus University in Syria. “Current guidelines do not list Parkinson’s disease as a risk factor for osteoporosis, but this study suggests that it should be included.”
Studies indicate that PD patients have a lower bone mineral density (BMD) than age-matched controls. Bone loss in PD is attributed to many factors resulting from immobility, decreased muscle strength, and low body weight.
My doctor’s 4-page letter included a prescription for Fosamax (alendronate), and lifestyle change suggestions such as no smoking, daily weigh-bearing exercise, healthy weight, daily exposure to sunlight, vitamin D supplements, foods rich in calcium, and limit alcohol and caffeine.
My doctor also told me that osteoporosis generally doesn’t cause any pain unless it causes a major fracture so he doesn’t think it’s related to the hip and knee pain/stiffness I am also experiencing.
Needless to say, bone density tests are a good precaution for anyone with or without Parkinson’s disease who wants to protect their bones.