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Survey: Many Women Slip on Bone Health

Osteoporosis Disease Management Needs to Be a Priority for Postmenopausal Women, Report Concludes

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

May 14, 2009 -- Many postmenopausal women with osteoporosis are not on top of their disease management, according to a new national survey.

Osteoporosis has been declared a global health crisis by the World Health Organization and other health groups, and federal authorities say fractures related to osteoporosis are a major cause of death and disability.

More than 1,800 postmenopausal women completed online surveys conducted the last week of March 2009 by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the Know My Bones Council. Of the survey participants, 889 had postmenopausal osteoporosis and 912 didn't, and all were 50 or older.

The survey found, among other things, that:

  • 21% plan to retire later than expected. Half the women with osteoporosis surveyed are afraid their disease will limit their ability to work.
  • Although 83% of women with osteoporosis believe they are doing all they can to manage their disease, women with osteoporosis were no more likely to know their bone density scores than women without the disease.
  • 27% of the women with osteoporosis said they often don't take their medication. Nearly half of these women say it is because they forget to take it.
  • Only 35% of women with osteoporosis reported initiating a conversation with their doctors about the disease.
  • 84% of the women with osteoporosis agree that women today have a greater need than previous generations to maintain an active lifestyle.
  • 22% of women who planned to retire later than expected said the reason was to maintain health insurance benefits.
  • 70% of women with osteoporosis fear they'll lose independence because of the disease.
  • 71% of the postmenopausal women with osteoporosis say they have suffered a fracture that has made them more careful about avoiding future fractures.
  • 73% of women with osteoporosis who have suffered a fracture consider themselves a burden to their families, helpless, or feel they have lost independence.

The report says education can motivate women to make bone health a greater priority. After survey participants reviewed educational information about osteoporosis, nearly three quarters of women with osteoporosis reported that they plan to make their bone health more of a priority.

The Know My Bones Council includes the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the Society for Women's Health Research, and Amgen, a company that manufactures medicines.

"As women retire later, bone health is not a luxury, it is a necessity," says Felicia Cosman, MD, clinical director of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and medical director of the Clinical Research Center at Helen Hayes Hospital. "Although some women are making significant strikes toward better bone health, many are not and need to do more."

Archelle Georgiou, MD, a member of the Society for Women's Health Research board of directors, says that because four out of five people with osteoporosis are women, it's critical for them to make healthy bones a priority effort.

"We are pleased to see that after learning about the risks of osteoporosis as part of the survey, many women reported that they would take action to make bone health more of a priority by speaking with their doctor, re-evaluating their bone density scores, and educating themselves and others," she says in a news release.

May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.

SOURCES: News release, Know My Bones National Survey. Know My Bones Council, Harris Interactive.

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