Newswise — An osteoporosis guide for primary care providers to better treat their patients has been published in the journal of Family Medicine by clinicians and researchers with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones, causing them to become weak and brittle. In some cases, a fall or a movement such as bending over or turning in bed can cause a fracture. It is commonly seen in older adults, especially women, and more than 53 million people in the United States either have osteoporosis or are at high risk of developing it.

“I think it’s important to increase awareness of this disease between patients and their primary care providers,” said Nahid Rianon, MD, DrPH, a geriatrician and associate professor of family medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and lead author on the study. “Half of the patients who have osteoporosis are managed by their primary care physician, so we really need to educate those physicians so they can make better decisions about their patients’ care.”

Most patients may put off broken bone and related pain as a normal part of aging. However, Rianon says that while losing bone mass is a normal sign of aging, experiencing painful and broken bones such as those linked with osteoporosis, is not normal and most of the time, preventable.

“There are things we can all be doing now to lower our risk of this disease. There is a way we can age healthy, but it is about knowing risks – as a patient and as a provider. For example, if you have unmanaged hypertension or diabetes, you are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. If a primary care physician understands that, then maybe we can identify it early and prevent someone from developing this disease,” Rianon said.

Rianon hopes this guide will help raise awareness for the disease and increase discussions among primary care physicians and their patients.

“Having osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging. It can be very painful and a broken bone often becomes the cause of dependency and indicate onset of frailty for an older adult. If physicians know how to fully evaluate and manage care of this disease, we can hopefully help a lot of people,” she said.

Jude des Bordes, MBChB, DrPH, a research scientist in family medicine with McGovern Medical School contributed to the guide.