Osteoporosis can tremendously impact your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
Although it’s a serious condition, osteoporosis can be treated. To help you better understand it, take a look at these 10 osteoporosis prevention and treatment options.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means “porous bones”. It’s a condition that is more common in women than men. Bones start to become thinner and begin to lose their strength. Because of this, they are less dense and more likely to break. In fact, one in three women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
This poorer quality of bone causes both pain and disability. It also greatly reduces someone’s quality of life. Doing the most basic of everyday activities becomes more difficult.
Many women don’t even know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. It’s often referred to as the “silent disease”. So how exactly does it start?
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Throughout our lives, our bones are constantly being renewed. New bone replaces old bone, keeping us strong. But for those with osteoporosis, this renewal doesn’t take place at the same level. More bone is lost than is replaced, making them brittle and prone to fracture.
It’s important to know if you are at risk for osteoporosis. Having one risk factor doesn’t mean you’ll get the disease, however the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing it. Some of the risk factors include:
- Gender – Again, women are more likely than men to develop the disease.
- Age – As you age, your risk of developing osteoporosis goes up, especially if you’re over the age of 65.
- Family history – Genetics do play a role. If one of your parents has been diagnosed with osteoporosis or has broken a hip, you may be at greater risk.
- Menopause/hysterectomy – Estrogen helps protect our bones. With the onset of menopause, the levels of estrogen go down and bone loss speeds up. Women who have had a hysterectomy also experience this drop and can develop osteoporosis.
- Medications – Certain medications can have side effects that may increase your risk of fracture or developing osteoporosis, such as those taken for diabetes, thyroid treatment, or depression. Make sure to check with your medical provider to see if what you are taking may put you at greater risk.
- Previous fracture – If you’ve had a minor fall and experienced a fracture, you may have osteoporosis. It’s a good opportunity to get checked.
- Some diseases – Certain diseases may actually weaken your bones, such as arthritis, chronic kidney disease, or even gastrointestinal problems. Again, make sure to ask your medical provider if you should be concerned about possibly developing osteoporosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” for a reason. Those who are suffering bone loss due to osteoporosis usually don’t experience any symptoms. In fact, there are only three physical symptoms that may warn you of the disease:
- Loss of height equal or greater than 4 cm (just over an inch)
- A stooped posture or curved upper back
- Significant, ongoing lower back pain
These signs may indicate that you have a spine fracture, specifically a vertebral fracture. Surprisingly, they aren’t always painful, so they may go unnoticed for a long period of time. Be sure to reach out to your doctor if you believe you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms.
6 Tips to Prevent Osteoporosis
So can you do anything to help reduce your risk even further? Yes! Prevention starts with a good diet and healthy lifestyle. Take a look at these 6 tips that can help:
- Get enough Vitamin D – If you’re not getting enough Vitamin D through your diet or daily exposure to sunlight, a supplement can help you get your daily recommended allowance.
- Avoid smoking – If you aren’t a smoker, don’t start, and if you are a smoker, work to stop smoking. Smoking can actually double your risk of hip fracture.
- Maintain a healthy weight – You probably know that having a low mass body index is important. However, when it comes to osteoporosis, a BMI of less than 19 can increase your risk.
- Eat healthy – Make sure to eat plenty of protein, calcium, fruits and vegetables to promote good bone health.
- Avoid too much alcohol – Avoid having more than 2 drinks a day to decrease your risk of fracture.
- Get plenty of exercise – Not enough exercise can lead to not only muscle loss but bone loss as well.
4 Osteoporosis Treatment Options
Beyond changing your diet and lifestyle, your doctor may recommend more serious treatment options. A bone density test may be used to help determine your risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years. From there, treatment options include medications as well as therapy including:
- Hormone-related therapy – Because women lose estrogen at greater levels during and after menopause, estrogen is the most common hormone given to help treat osteoporosis. It can however increase the risk of breast cancer as well as blood clots, which could lead to a stroke. There are other hormone options that mimic estrogen, such as Raloxifene, that can be used instead.
- Bisphosphonates – Bisphosphonates are the most common medication prescribed to treat osteoporosis. They can have side effects including heartburn, nausea, and abdominal pain.
- Denosumab – Denosumab is an injection given every 6 months, and has had great success in reducing fractures and increasing bone density. You do need to be aware that once you start taking it, you will most likely have to do so indefinitely or risk spinal column fractures.
- Bone-building medications – Certain medications can help you gain back some of the bone mass you’ve lost, by stimulating bone growth. These medications are typically given by injection and they do have time limits – you cannot take them for more than one to two years.
Be sure to stay aware and keep track of your risk factors and any possible symptoms. Share them with your doctor and discuss what treatment options may be right for you.
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