What is osteoporosis?
- Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones.
- It happens when you lose too much bone, when your body doesn't make enough bone, or both. In other words, it is a condition that causes low bone mass.
- Over time, this weakens the bones and makes them more likely to break.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
- You may not know you have osteoporosis until you have serious signs.
- Osteoporosis is called a “silent” disease” because there are typically no symptoms until a bone is broken or one or more vertebrae collapse (fracture).
- You may develop a hunched back and may also get shorter over time because osteoporosis can cause your vertebrae (the bones in your spine) to collapse. These problems tend to occur after a lot of bone calcium has already been lost.
- Osteoporosis is the major cause of fractures in postmenopausal women and in older men.
- Fractures can occur in any bone but happen most often in bones of the hip, vertebrae in the spine, and wrist.
What causes osteoporosis?
- Your bones are made up of living, growing tissues that change as you age.
- When you're a child, adolescent, and young adult, your bones actually become denser (thicker and stronger). Eventually, sometime around your mid 20s, you reach your peak bone mass — this is when your bone mass is at its highest level. After bone mass peaks, all adults start to lose some bone mass.
- Osteoporosis occurs if you lose too much bone or don't make enough bone to begin with.
- Certain risk factors increase the likelihood that you will develop the disease.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?
Some of these risk factors are beyond your control. For other risk factors, you can take steps to reduce your risk.
Uncontrollable risk factors
- Women are more likely to have osteoporosis than men. Women have lower peak bone mass and smaller bones than men. However, men are still at risk, especially after the age of 70.
- As you age, bone loss happens more quickly, and new bone growth is slower.
- Asians are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Parent with hip fracture
- You are more likely to develop osteoporosis if you have a family history of it.
- The hormone changes caused by menopause may increase the risk of osteoporosis. This is especially true for women who have early menopause (before age 45).
- Since the ovaries make estrogen, faster bone loss may also occur if both ovaries are removed by surgery.
Thinly built body
- People who have small, thin bone frames are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Controllable risk factors
- Not getting enough calcium and/or vitamin D
Sedentary lifestyle (not getting enough exercise)
- Low levels of physical activity and prolonged periods of inactivity can contribute to an increased rate of bone loss. They also leave you in poor physical condition, which can increase your risk of falling and breaking a bone.
Smoking or tobacco use
- low estrogen or testosterone
- too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism)
Use of steroid medications
- long-term use of corticosteroids (Wysolone) which are medicines prescribed to treat inflammation, pain and chronic conditions such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, or skin conditions
Long term use of antacids
- Long-term use of medicines to reduce stomach acid for acid reflux or other conditions can cause reduced calcium absorption and osteoporosis.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
- If your doctor suspects osteoporosis or you are a woman aged 65 or older, he or she may suggest you have a bone density scan.
- A common test that measures bone density is called a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). This test measures the density of the bones in your hips, spine and wrist, which are all places likely to be affected by osteoporosis.
How do I prevent osteoporosis?
To help keep your bones healthy as you age, you need to get enough calcium and vitamin D, and exercise regularly.
- To help prevent osteoporosis, women 50 years of age and younger and men 70 years of age and younger should get 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Women older than 50 years of age and men older than 70 years of age should get 1,200 mg of calcium per day.
- It's usually best to try to get calcium from food. Nonfat and low-fat dairy products are good sources of calcium. Other sources of calcium include dried beans, pink salmon, spinach and broccoli.
- If you don't get enough calcium from the food you eat, your doctor may suggest taking a calcium supplement. Take it with meals or with a sip of milk.
- You can get vitamin D from sunlight, food, or supplements. Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to sunlight. However, many people don't get enough vitamin D due to geographic location, sunscreen use, or fears of skin cancer from sun exposure. Your doctor can test your blood to measure your vitamin D level. If your vitamin D level is low, your doctor may recommend that you take a vitamin D supplement.
- Exercise helps you build strong bones. To help prevent osteoporosis, start exercising when you're young and to continue exercising throughout your life. Even if you're older, it's never too late to start exercising. Ask your doctor for tips on how to start exercising safely.
- The best exercise to help prevent osteoporosis is a combination of strength training and weight-bearing exercise. Examples of weight-bearing exercise include walking, jogging and climbing steps.
How is osteoporosis treated?
- The goals for treating osteoporosis are to slow or stop bone loss and to prevent fractures.
- Your doctor may recommend the following 5 strategies
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- An appropriate amount of calories for your age, height, and weight.
- Foods and liquids that include calcium, vitamin D, and protein. These help minimize bone loss and maintain overall health. However, it’s important to eat a diet rich in all nutrients to help protect and maintain bone health
- Avoid second hand smoke, and if you smoke, quit.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
- Your doctor will want you to increase your physical activity, especially weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercises. This helps increase bone density.
- Although exercise is beneficial for people with osteoporosis, it should not put any sudden or excessive strain on your bones. If you have osteoporosis, you should avoid high-impact exercise.
- To help prevent injury and fractures, consult a physical therapist and learn an exercise program for osteoporosis.
- If you're at risk for falls, reduce the likelihood of falls in your home by getting rid of tripping hazards (such as electrical cords and rugs) or slippery surfaces. You can also install grab bars in your shower or anywhere else in your home that you might need them.
- Your doctor may prescribe medications for osteoporosis. Common examples of medications are oral tablets like alendronate (bisphosphonates) or injections like Zolendronate or Teriparatide. Your doctor will discuss the best option for you.
- No matter which medications you take for osteoporosis, it is still important that you make the appropriate lifestyle and diet changes.
Fall prevention to help prevent fractures.