Did you know that May is National Osteoporosis Prevention month? Do you care? You might if you knew this is a condition that affects one in every two women and one in every four men over the age of 50, but has no symptoms. Guess what the first symptom is? I’ll tell you, it is a broken bone.

To make matters worse, the broken bone is not because of a serious injury or fall. It can come from doing nothing to getting a hug or sneezing. This kind of break is known as a “fragility fracture,” and is a sign that bones have been significantly weakened by osteoporosis. One fracture is a big predictor of more broken bones to come. Yet after most fractures occur and are repaired, less than 20 percent of individuals get evaluated for the underlying problem of osteoporosis. You need to know that and take charge of the investigation if you have a broken bone.

There are pink ribbons for breast cancer, but the lace ribbon that represents the appearance of bone under the microscope is largely unknown as a symbol of osteoporosis awareness. We need to change that because “osteo Ferocious” — rather than osteoporosis, progresses quietly until skeletal damage has occurred.

There has been a big and effective focus on mammograms and Pap smears, which is good. However, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. Furthermore it is a major expense, cause of mortality, pain and permanent disability.

Men are also at risk of osteoporosis, as a man over the age of 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer. It is appalling that more is not being done because osteoporosis is a disease that is a model for successful prevention and therapeutic interventions.

We need a little perspective about this disease. Most of us know about blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol screening, breast, cervical and prostate cancer screening. But do you know your risks of a broken bone or your “t” score?

The “t” score is an indicator of the strength or density of your bones. It is recommended that this painless screening test be done on all individuals 65 or older every two years. If you have significant risk factors, it should be done earlier. Prior to the age of 65, you can go online and google FRAX and have your 10 year risk of a fracture calculated.

To help you take action, we are conducting a workshop on this topic on May 9 in conjunction with the campaign being done by national organizations during National Osteoporosis Prevention Month. We have the auditorium at Georgia Northwestern Technology College reserved. The Women’s Information Network will be conducting a workshop on this topic and have experts in medicine, nursing, physical therapy and nutrition to provide practical information and local resources to help you, the consumer, take intelligent action to protect your skeleton.

This is a serious matter. Just taking a calcium tablet or a little bit of exercise is not enough. The stakes are high and the risks are worth learning about. Most of us know someone who has had a fall and broken a bone. It is usually the beginning of a sad decline in independence and activity.

There are two million too many fractures every year. Less than 20 percent of individuals with a fracture receive a work up for the underlying cause — osteoporosis. This is unacceptable! Every year, of the nearly 30,000 hip fracture patients, one-quarter end up in nursing homes and half never regain previous function. There are ways to determine your risk, get tested and treated if necessary. There are lifestyle changes and information that can save your life. Please mark your calendars and register for this workshop at www.infoforwomen.org. Men are welcome, too.

Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP is the president and founder of Women’s Information Network Inc. She may be reached at 706-506-2000 or by email at baker8483@comcast.net.