Beebe to raise awareness of osteoporosis in May

Beebe Medical Center will offer free screenings for osteoporosis in May on different days and locations around Sussex County. May is Osteoporosis Prevention Month.

No appointments are necessary for the non-invasive screenings, which take just a few minutes to scan the heel bone for density. If the screening shows the density is below a certain value in that bone, the patient will be advised to see a physician.

Osteoporosis, often termed the silent disease because it shows no symptoms until it causes bones to become so fragile that they break, will strike millions of people over the next decade if preventive action is not taken, according to a 2004 report by the U.S. Surgeon General. It is estimated that by 2020, half of all Americans above the age of 50 will be at risk for fractures caused by Osteoporosis. There is a risk for men as well as for women.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, any bone can be affected, but fractures in the hip and spine are most concerning. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. Statistics show that about 20 percent of senior citizens who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year. And, about 20 percent of those with hip fractures end up in a nursing home within a year.

Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity. The goal, healthcare experts say, is to prevent and treat the disease before the bones are so weak that the patient’s overall health and safety is threatened.

“The problem is that osteoporosis doesn’t give symptoms,” said Dr. John Gomez, a rheumatologist based in Lewes and member of Beebe’s medical staff. “There’s a misconception of pain. There is not pain. And once there is a fracture, it’s too late.”

Dr. Gomez said that again and again patients tell him that they can’t imagine they are suffering from osteoporosis because they feel fine and have no trouble walking. He emphasized that the most important thing is to get regular screenings, to practice a lifestyle that promotes bone strength, and to get treatment once osteoporosis has been diagnosed.

A lifestyle that promotes bone health includes plenty of weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, bicycling and playing tennis, eating a balanced diet that includes calcium and vitamin D, and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

Marie Berntsen, coordinator of the Beebe Medical Center Orthopedic Service Line, said that Beebe focuses on helping people be proactive with their own health. Both the service line and the Medical Center’s Community Health Department periodically offer osteoporosis screenings.

Beebe Medical Center’s Orthopaedic Service Line and its Community Health Department are organizing the screenings in May. The screenings will take place in the following locations:

May 3 — 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 691 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach.

May 6 — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Pyle Center, Route 20/Pyle Center Road, Frankford.

May 12 — 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Slaughter Neck Community Action Program Center, 22942 Slaughter Neck Road, Lincoln.

May 17 — 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Harbor Lights CHEER Center, 34211 Woods Edge Drive, Lewes.

For more information, please call Kay Malone in the Community Health Department at (302) 645-3100, ext. 5139, or Marie Berntsen at (302) 645-3623.