More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. And many don’t know it. What are the facts about osteoporosis? How can you treat this disease?
What is osetoprosis?
- Osteoporosis means “porous bones.” Bones are made up of collagen and calcium phosphate. Collagen provides the basic framework. Calcium phosphate hardens the bone. From the age of about 30, we lose more bone than we replace. This means we lose bone density. About half of women 50 and older will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
- Over 1.5 million fractures every year are caused by osteoporosis. Think of spinal compression fractures, hip fractures, and wrist and pelvic fractures. Our bones are constantly being rebuilt throughout our lifetime.
Who is at risk for osteoporosis?
- The older you are, the greater your chance of having osteoporosis. Women’s bones are generally thinner than men’s. Five to seven years after menopause, women’s bone density declines fast. In fact, about 80% of Americans with osteoporosis are women. Women who are thin and have a small frame are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Smoking, lack of exercise and a diet low in calcium and vitamin D put you at greater risk for osteoporosis. Excess drinking is linked to bone loss and a risk of fractures. Corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma and other conditions, increase your risk of bone loss. Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa or bulimia) can also harm your bone health.
- A 15 minute bone density test uses low-dose X-rays to measure bone density in the hip and spine. Testing compares your bone mineral density (BMD) with that of a healthy 30-year-old. That’s because 30 is when bone mass is at its peak.
How can you treat osteoporosis?
- If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may be prescribed a bone boosting drug such as Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, or Reclast. They can reduce bone loss and fracture risk. They may actually help build some bone density. Drugs that you take by mouth can cause gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers in the esophagus, acid reflux, and nausea.
- Hormone replacement therapy is an option for osteoporosis in women who have menopausal symptoms. This is used less than other medications because of the risk of cancer, blood clots, heart disease, and stroke.
- Evista gives bone-strengthening effects without the cancer risks. Risks include blood clots and increased hot flashes.
- Eating calcium-rich foods can help protect your bones. Try about three and a half 8-ounce glasses of milk a day. Fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring also contain vitamin D, which helps us absorb calcium. Leafy green vegetables also provide magnesium, which helps maintain good bone quality. Add foods and drinks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to your diet.
- Weight-bearing exercise can help you build bone and maintain it. Think of walking, jogging, tennis. Using small weights can also help bones. Women who walk just a mile a day have four to seven more years of bone reserve.
Now that you have the facts about osteoporosis, you can take the steps to prevent it.