Monday, June 17, 2024

Why I helped set a Guinness World Record for bone density testing along with 7,000 people worldwide

As a child, I would relish in the astounding, obscure and inspiring achievements laid out in the Guinness World Records books, daydreaming about how I, too, could be a part of history. Now that dream has become a reality, after participating in Amgen Canada’s efforts to set a world record for the most osteoporosis screenings in 24 hours.

It may not be a death-defying stunt, but for me, and the thousands of others in 10 countries around the globe who took part in the event on May 5, it has the potential to be life changing.

Our bones are constantly renewed through a natural process in which new bone cells replace old bone cells. Osteoporosis is a bone disease whereby bone loss occurs more rapidly than normal, causing bones to become thinner or weaker due to reduced bone density. This makes us more susceptive to fractures (especially as we age). Screening can help identify those with an elevated risk of osteoporosis.

Knowledge is power. When people understand their risks, they can work with their healthcare providers to find solutions to protect bone health, while also adopting wellness strategies for healthier aging.

Guinness World Records’ adjudicator Michael Empric flew in from New York to oversee the Break Records Not Bones event that took place at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ont. He says the awareness factor was a huge part of the appeal. “At Guinness World Records, we are always looking for new record titles and what’s interesting about this is it’s letting people become empowered about their healthcare decisions, bone density and osteoporosis.”

Two million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis, a condition that effects both women and men. Research shows that 80 percent of all fractures in people age 50-plus are caused by the disease.

Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. It’s staggering, but it’s not something that gets a lot of attention.

“Bone health matters,” says Dr. Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, executive medical director, Amgen Canada, part of the world’s largest independent biotechnology company. “We know that one in three women and one in five men will suffer from osteoporosis… There is not a very big awareness around this so Amgen wanted to use this platform with the Guinness Book of World Records to try and increase awareness among the public.”

As someone who has broken more than a few bones, coupled with the fact that my Mom has osteoporosis, you’d think I’d be on top of this. But, in truth, I hadn’t given osteoporosis much thought. Call it denial, but I am not alone.

Osteoporosis is often called ‘the silent disease’ because bone loss can’t be seen or felt. Most people don’t know they are at risk until they’ve suffered the life-altering consequences of a broken bone in critical part of the body, such as hip, pelvis or spine.

“If ignored, osteoporosis can jeopardize your ability to do things you love and get around on your own, particularly,” explains Dr. Motsepe-Ditshego.

One of the easiest ways to assess and address the issue is through screening.

With some trepidation, I rolled up my pant leg, placed my foot in the portable ultrasound machine designed to measure bone density in my ankle and within a minute learned my density is pretty good for a woman my age. Yay!

In Canada, an astounding 553 people came together to help Amgen set the Guinness World Record, surpassing the country goal of 300 and contributing to the global achievement of 5,816.

The record is exciting, but what’s really important is that participants were inspired to take action.

“What prompted me to come was the fastness of it,” says one 50-year-old participant, who brought along her 21-year-old daughter. “It seemed like the appropriate thing to do at this time in my life, especially since I’ve been having a lot of knee pain and I wondered about osteoporosis.”

She plans to take her test results to her family doctor and use it as a starting point for a more in-depth conversation around bone health.

Another 69-year-old participant says it confirmed what she already suspected and she will continue to work with her healthcare provider on preventative measures: “It’s educational.”

“The more we know, the better equipped we are to take charge of our bone health,” says Dr. Motsepe-Ditshego, who points out that even when you’re feeling great, your bones can tell a different story.

Talk to your doctor about risk factors and when you should start osteoporosis screening. It can change your life and, for me, there was the added bonus of helping set a Guinness World Record.

Are you at risk?

Younger adults (age < 50 years):

  • Fragility fracture (breaking a bone as a result of a minor accident)
  • Long term use of glucocorticoids such as prednisone
  • Hypogonadism or premature menopause (age < 45 years)
  • Having other disorders strongly associated with rapid bone loss and/or fracture such as rheumatoid arthritis, malabsorption syndrome, and primary hyperparathyroidism.

Older adults:

  • Being 65 years or older
  • Clinical risk factors for fracture (menopausal women, men age 50 to 64 years)
  • Fragility fracture (breaking a bone as a result of a minor accident)
  • Long term use of glucocorticoids such as prednisone
  • Having a parent who had a hip fracture
  • Having a spine fracture or low bone mass identified on x-ray
  • Being a smoker
  • High alcohol intake (greater than or equal to 3 units per day on a consistent basis)
  • Low body weight (less than 60 kg or 132 lbs) or major weight loss (present weight is more than 10 percent below your weight at age 25)
  • Having other disorders strongly associated with rapid bone loss and/or fracture as mentioned above.

Presented by Amgen Canada

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