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Osteoporosis

Millions of women and men have osteoporosis or are at risk to develop the bone disease.  Osteoporosis develops when your body loses more bone than it can replace.  Throughout life, healthy bones are in a continuous state of removing old bone (resorption) and building new bone.  The natural balance of bone remodeling can be upset by such things as growing older, hormonal change, hereditary factors, disease, lifestyle, and poor diet.  Osteoporosis causes bones to lose density, mass, and become thin, weak, and susceptible to fracture.

Are you at risk for osteoporosis?   
Fortunately, osteoporosis is considered a highly preventable disease and treatable, if discovered early enough.  Similar to other diseases, some risks are controllable and others are not.  These risks are summarized in the table below. 

Risks you control

Risks beyond your control

Eat a balanced diet

Gender (women are at higher risk)

Take calcium and Vitamin D

Age; everyone ages

Do not smoke or use tobacco

Family history of osteoporosis

Perform regular weight-bearing exercise

Race (Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic)

Moderate alcohol use

Small-boned, thin

Other things that can increase your risk

  • Steroids (corticosteroids)
  • Some types of anti-convulsant drugs
  • Eating disorders
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Your doctor can help you identify your risks and test your bone mineral density.  The test is called dual energy absorptiometry x-ray, or DEXA.  DEXA measures your bone density and compares it to that of a normal, healthy 30-year-old of your sex and race.  The result, called a T-score helps to predict your risk of osteoporosis.

Treatment can help control and prevent progression of osteoporosis
Depending on your medical history, risk factors, physical examination, DEXA and/or other tests, your doctor can determine if you are at risk or have osteoporosis.  Your doctor may recommend:

  • A balanced diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D; supplements
  • Regular exercise makes core muscles stronger to better support your spine, improve body flexibility, strength, and endurance.  Anti-gravity exercise, such as walking, helps build bone density.
  • Physical therapy to help you learn how to exercise safely and use good body mechanics during rest and activity.
  • A medication called a bisphosphonates – these include alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate, and zoledronic.  These drugs slow down bone resorption.
  • Hormone therapy, such as estrogen

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