Many people are unaware of bone-loss risk, professor says

CANFIELD -- Physicians studying the prevalence of osteoporosis in the Mahoning Valley were expecting to screen 2,000 fairgoers this week and expected to diagnose bone loss in 500 of them, 400 of whom had no idea they were afflicted.
"A lot of people don't realize they are at risk," said Dr. Joan Boyd, a professor in Youngstown State University's department of health. "Seven million people in the United States are unaware that they are affected."
That's a tragedy considering that osteoporosis is a preventable ailment, she continued. It is directly related to diet and how much calcium is consumed. Postmenopausal women are at particularly high risk for bone loss because lower levels of estrogen strip calcium from the bones.
Men and younger women are also at risk, she stressed. Men don't realize that they can suffer bone loss too, and a lot of them don't like to stand in line with a bunch of women. But, it is important for them to be screened too, she continued.
The same is true of minorities. "A study came out a few years ago that indicated minority women were not at as great a risk, but that's not true," Boyd said. "Osteoporosis is age-related. It doesn't matter what race you are."
As of Sunday, approximately 800 fairgoers had been screened.
Testing site: In a cooperative effort, YSU and Forum Health have been conducting the free screenings in the YSU tent at the Canfield Fair for the past three or four years and at various health shows and events throughout the community, Boyd said.
The screening, which would cost about $40 in a physician's office, is painless. It employs ultrasound to measure bone density in each recipient's right heel. The entire process takes less than five minutes.
Funding for the ongoing project is provided by pharmaceutical companies.
While other organizations offer free bone density screenings, Boyd said, they typically do not offer the follow-up provided by the YSU-Forum Health project.
Physicians and nutritionists, such as Dr. Mohamman Shayesteh, a clinical nutritionist, are on site at the YSU tent to interpret results and offer advice.
They also contact the primary physicians of those suffering from bone loss and follow up with the primary care physicians about six months later, Boyd said.
"What we are finding is that some of the doctors, about 75 percent, are following up like they should."
Bone density screenings continue today from noon to 4 p.m.

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