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Preventing Osteoporosis through a Healthy Lifestyle Was the Focus of the 9th International Osteoporosis Symposium Held at AUA

YEREVAN, Armenia –Advocating for good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle for bone health was the focus of the 9th International Osteoporosis Symposium that took place at the American University of Armenia (AUA) on October 22, 2015. The symposium was organized and co-sponsored by the Armenian Osteoporosis Association; JHM Charitable Foundation; College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University Medical Center; The Hovnanian Foundation; International Osteoporosis Foundation; Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR); and AUA School of Public Health.

Dr. John Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, and Vice Chair for International Education and Research of the Department of Medicine at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and a member of the Governing Board of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) was the Chair of the Symposium. His contributions to developing health services that address the issue of osteoporosis in Armenia and Artsakh are invaluable. For the last nine years, Dr. Bilezikian has organized annual symposia to bring up to date knowledge on osteoporosis prevention and treatment to Armenian health providers and through the Hologic Company in the United States donated nine densitometers making early detection of osteoporosis possible.

The first half of the Symposium was devoted to updating the audience on the new international developments in the field of osteoporosis, epidemiologic situation of osteoporotic fractures in Armenia, maintaining bone health and prevention of osteoporosis through healthy behavior and nutrition. Focusing on the importance of healthy life style to maintain healthy bones throughout life was in line with the theme of this year’s World Osteoporosis Day of the International Osteoporosis Foundation celebrated on October 20 – Serve Up Bone Strength aiming to raise awareness for the right nutrients needed to stay healthy and strong.

Dr. Bilezikian and his colleagues from the United States, Armenia and Russia emphasized the need to consider nutritional adequacy throughout life. The key elements of nutritional adequacy with regard to optimal skeletal health are sufficient calcium, vitamin D, and protein. Dr. Karine Arustamyan (Hospital for Maternal and Child Health Protection, Yerevan) underscored the importance of adequate calcium intake at all ages. The epidemic of vitamin D deficiency throughout the world would appear not to have spared Armenia, stated Dr. Lena Aghajanova, Chief of the Department of Endocrinology, Yerevan State Medical University. Without adequate vitamin D to facilitate calcium absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, reduced peak bone mass can also result.  Dr. Kim Hekimian of the Institute of Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center emphasized the need for proper nutritional guidelines in school programs. 

Dr. Varduhi Petrosyan, Dean of the AUA School of Public Health, underscored how detrimental smoking is to skeletal health and efforts to deal with this problem by smoking cessation programs in Armenia. In addition, Dr. Mariam Manoukian, a practicing endocrinologist at Stanford Healthcare in California, emphasized issues that can contribute to weakened bones, such as Diabetes mellitus. She also pointed out that obesity is now recognized to be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Dr. Bilezikian pointed out frailty and falls as critical risk factors for the osteoporotic fracture.

In the afternoon, over 250 health providers broke into five workshops on different aspects of bone health targeting pediatricians, gynecologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and school nurses, teachers and principals. The concluding session of the Symposium called for renewed attention to these nutritional factors that have the potential to improve skeletal health and thereby reduce the incidence of osteoporotic fractures in Armenia. All the participants received 4 continuous professional development credits from the Ministry of Health and certificates from the organizers.

The 9th International Osteoporosis Symposium was followed by a similar conference in Gyumri (October 23) and the 4th Leadership Round Table on Osteoporosis in Armenia held in Yerevan (October 26, 2015). 

The AUA School of Public Health works actively to improve population health and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.

Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia and affiliated with the University of California. AUA provides a global education in Armenia and the region, offering high-quality, graduate and undergraduate studies, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting public service and democratic values.

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Dr. John Bilezikian presenting at the 9th International Osteoporosis Symposium

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Dr. Kim Hekimian emphasized the need for proper nutritional guidelines in school programs

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Participants at the 9th International Osteoporosis Symposium held at AUA