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What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis affects more than 25 million Americans – mostly women past menopause. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 1.2 million bone fractures each year in the U.S. are related to osteoporosis, with one in two women experiencing an osteoporosis-related fracture sometime in her lifetime.

skeleton-778069_640What is it?

Our bones are actually living tissue that is constantly being worn down and then replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when bones are being worn down faster than they are being replaced and causes bones to become weak, brittle, and easier to break.

Symptoms of bone loss due to osteoporosis include:

  • Back pain or tenderness,
  • A loss of height, and a slight curvature or “hump” of the upper back
  • Fractures in the spine, wrist or hip

You should call a doctor if you or a loved one develops any of these symptoms. Early detection and treatment of osteoporosis can prevent pain and bone fractures down the road.

older-lady-72824_640Are you at risk?

Here are common risk factors for developing osteoporosis:

  • Surgical menopause with the removal of the ovaries
  • An inadequate intake of calcium throughout life
  • An inactive lifestyle
  • A slender build
  • A history of eating disorders
  • A family history of osteoporosis
  • Frequent use of diuretics, steroids, and anticonvulsants
  • Smoking or alcohol use

Talk to your doctor and determine if you are at risk. Awareness of your risks can mean early detection and prevention, which can save you from pain and discomfort. Your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes to prevent the progression of osteoporosis.

Prevention is key

Following an active and healthy lifestyle while you are still young reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Exercise increases bone mass before menopause and helps to reduce bone loss after menopause.

An adequate calcium intake is essential in the prevention of osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seafood. Most women get only about half of the calcium they need daily so taking a calcium supplement is often advisable.

Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Milk fortified with vitamin D is one of the best sources. Sunlight also is an excellent source of vitamin D – being in the sun for just 15 minutes a day helps the body produce and activate vitamin D.

If you feel that you are at risk for osteoporosis, talk with your physician. A bone density scan, which is a simple and painless tool that measures bone density, may be recommended. Women who do not take estrogen after menopause have other options for preventing osteoporosis including drugs such as calcitonin which slows bone loss.

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