What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when you lose too much bone, make too little bone or both. The result - bones become weak and can more easily break.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. About 34 million are at risk for the disease. Estimates suggest that about half of all women older than 50, and up to one in four men, will break a bone because of osteoporosis. In the five to seven years following menopause, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone density.
Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease," because the disease progresses over time and there is no way to know if your bones are becoming weaker. Far too often, it is only after breaking a bone, that you are diagnosed with the disease. Or, you may notice that you are getting shorter or your spine is curving. If you notice either of these symptoms, you should see your internist immediately, as these may be signs that the disease is already in an advanced stage.
What are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms associated with early signs of osteoporosis. Symptoms occurring late in the disease include:
- Fractures of the vertebrae, wrists or hips
- Low back or neck pain
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Loss of height over time
- Stooped posture
What are the Causes of Osteoporosis?
- Loss of estrogen due to menopause
- Hormonal disorder such as Cushing's syndrome, hyperthyroidism and hyperparathyroidism
- Diet low in calcium
- Family history of the disease
- Chronic liver disease and intestinal disorders
How is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
A bone density test is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis before a broken bone occurs. A bone density test measures bone mineral content and the density of the bones. A low bone density test result can indicate that you may be at risk for future bone fractures. The test can also show the rate of bone mineral loss and bone gain for those receiving treatment.
- Well Balanced Diet: Get enough calcium, and vitamin D. For women under age 50 you need 1.000 mg a day of calcium and if you are 50 or older 1200 mg a day is recommended. You need 400-800 IU a day of Vitamin D if you are under 50 and between 800-1000 IU a day if you are over 50.These are the two most important nutrients for bone health. Make sure your diet includes foods that are good for bone health such as fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise: High impact weight bearing exercises such as hiking, jogging, tennis, or dancing all help build bones and keep them strong. Low impact weight bearing exercises can also help to keep your bones strong. These include low impact aerobics, using a stair master or elliptical training machines and walking fast or on a treadmill.
- Lifestyle Changes: Limit alchohol and stop smoking.
Is Osteoporosis Treatable?
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, it is a treatable disease. There are two categories of osteoporosis medications: antiresorptive medications that slow bone loss and anabolic drugs that increase the rate of bone formation. Talk to your internist about the best treatment for you.
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