Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle — so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses such as bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Bone is living tissue that is constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep up with the loss of old bone.
Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. But white and Asian women — especially older women who are past menopause — are at highest risk. Medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise can help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.
Why is osteoporosis important?
Osteoporosis occurs when a person’s bone mass decreases as bones break down. This decrease in bone mass contributes to a loss of strength and motion, and the gradual weakening of the bones that can lead to fractures.
Osteoporosis makes it harder to move around and it causes bones to be prone to fracture. Many women can learn how to prevent these fractures. Here are a few of the most important bone health issues to be aware of:
1. Osteoporosis decreases strength, mobility, and muscle tone.
Osteoporosis has two main causes: loss of bone mass and loss of bone strength.
As we age, our bones lose their strength and integrity. To prevent bone loss, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise, and taking medications that support bone health are recommended.
2. Osteoporosis is a chronic condition.
Osteoporosis doesn’t go away if a person stops taking the medications to treat it.
3. Osteoporosis affects the bones in all areas of the body.
Osteoporosis only affects bones — no organs are affected. However, many women’s bones get weak in the hips and the spine. If the bones of the spine are weak, the spine may collapse. A weak spine, or a particularly large fracture, could result in back problems for the person with osteoporosis, making it difficult to stand or walk.
4. Osteoporosis affects women of all ages, but is most common in older women.
People over age 65 are the most at risk for osteoporosis, but everyone is at risk, especially if they:
• Are postmenopausal
• Have a family history of osteoporosis
• Are thin
• Have more than a few broken bones or joint problems
A recent study found that for women over the age of 70, less than 1 percent of bone strength is lost after menopause.
How does it happen?
A person’s bone strength increases as they age. At menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Without the hormone, estrogen levels decrease, causing the body to lose its ability to rebuild bone.
Osteoporosis is also related to losing bone mass due to two main mechanisms:
• Poor diet and lack of exercise
• Dental problems
• Extreme emotional stress
• Certain medications
To increase bone strength, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. And to eat a healthy diet that includes calcium-rich foods such as leafy green vegetables, yogurt, cottage cheese, and milk.
Some tips for getting more calcium
There are many ways to add more calcium to the diet. Below are a few suggestions:
1. The easiest way to add calcium to the diet is through dietary supplements. Supplements containing calcium are available in many forms. These include pills, liquids, and even drinks, such as green, cherry, and black cherry/blueberry juice.
2. Osteoporosis is a condition that requires a person to eat a high-calcium diet, so try to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods.
3. There are several clinical studies that suggest that bone-mineral supplements containing calcium may help to prevent osteoporosis. These studies also suggest that multivitamins that are high in calcium and vitamin D may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fracture.
4. Fish is a good source of calcium and other nutrients, and several studies have found that fish oil has a protective effect against bone loss and fracture.
5. Calcium supplements may be needed to reduce the risk of bone fracture. People who are taking a calcium supplement or have calcium in their diet are at a higher risk of fracture, so a person should always talk to a doctor before taking calcium supplements.
6. Don’t wait to see a doctor. Early diagnosis is the best way to prevent fractures.
To diagnose osteoporosis, you need to have a bone density test to measure the amount of bone mineral.
Your doctor will place a needle into the fat layer of your hip or spine to collect a sample of bone. You will then be given a medication, called a DXA scan, to measure your bone density. This DXA scan will take about 15 minutes to complete. If you are at high risk for osteoporosis, such as if you have a history of osteoporosis in your family or have low bone density, your doctor will perform a larger bone scan.
How to prevent osteoporosis
Getting enough calcium in your diet, consuming calcium-rich foods, and engaging in physical activity are all ways to maintain your bone health.
It’s also important to make sure to take medications as directed and to maintain proper nutrition.
A bone density test is usually needed to diagnose osteoporosis and to establish the need for X-rays and treatment for your osteoporosis. A bone density test is usually needed to diagnose osteoporosis and to establish the need for X-rays and treatment for your osteoporosis.
Typically, a person’s doctor will take a bone density test to determine if he or she is at risk for osteoporosis. If the bone density test results are normal, the doctor will discuss and recommend the next steps to treat osteoporosis.
A person who is diagnosed with osteoporosis may need to take medication, such as a calcium supplement, or to have X-rays to monitor his or her bone density over time.
If a person’s bone density test shows that he or she is at risk for osteoporosis, a doctor may recommend X-rays and further testing.
These X-rays will determine whether the patient is a candidate for medications or for surgery. If surgery is needed, the doctor will often perform a mini-fusion procedure, which involves removing a small piece of bone from the hip to stabilize it.
When to see a doctor
If a person notices that a joint feels swollen or painful, this may be a warning sign of osteoporosis. Another sign to watch for is increased chances of being injured, such as falls, from osteoporosis.
If a person has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, a doctor may recommend that he or she increase the amount of calcium or vitamin D in their diet. In some people, a person may need to take calcium supplements.
In general, a person should also avoid medications that block calcium absorption or decrease bone density. A doctor may recommend these medications for some people, such as those with certain types of osteoporosis. However, some of these medications can cause problems, and in rare cases, they may lead to serious bone damage.
Other risk factors
Some factors that may cause a person to be more susceptible to osteoporosis include:
Osteoporosis is more common in some ethnic groups than others. Women who are African American, Asian American, Native American, or Hispanic are at greater risk than Caucasians.
• Being overweight or obese
Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of osteoporosis. The health problems associated with osteoporosis also put extra stress on bones, increasing the risk of fracture. This can make bone loss more severe.
• A history of osteoporosis or an autoimmune disorder
People who have had a history of osteoporosis or a bone disease called rheumatoid arthritis have an increased risk of fractures.
• Recent trauma to the body
Trauma, including childbirth, a fall, or other falls, can damage the bones, putting more stress on them. In people who have an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation to the joints, trauma could increase their risk of fractures.
Who is at increased risk of osteoporosis?
- Women over 50.
- Men over 65.
- Women with multiple pregnancies or pregnancy during the years before the age of 20.
- Young teenagers.
- People who are obese or have other problems that affect bone health.
- Women who take hormone replacement therapy or older women who take medications that affect bone health.
- Women with lower bone mass at the time of menopause.
Older men and women
Women over 70 and men over 75 are at risk of osteoporosis, while pregnancy, childbirth and stress are increasing the risk for all women, including young teenagers.
If your female partner is at increased risk of osteoporosis after pregnancy, then her medications and lifestyle factors should be monitored regularly.
Diet and physical activity can also increase osteoporosis risk, particularly if they are severely restricted.
Men are at increased risk of osteoporosis with age, particularly after 50. During pregnancy and early childbearing, women are at high risk of osteoporosis. Men should avoid increased physical activity in order to maintain bone density.
Aging also increases bone loss; as adults age, they also tend to lose more bone than younger people, increasing their chances of osteoporosis and potentially osteoporotic fractures. As bones become less dense, they become more susceptible to fracture and even breaking.
Osteoporosis is an age-related disease. As people grow older, bone loss increases and bones become brittle, so it is important to build bone density to prevent bone fractures and disease.
Elderly people are prone to osteoporosis because of the weakening of bone as the body ages. But osteoporosis is also linked to poor nutrition, hormone imbalance and certain medications.
High doses of vitamin D and calcium do not appear to increase bone density, so patients with osteoporosis should receive only moderate doses of these supplements.
Osteoporosis management tips
Check with your doctor if you are at risk of osteoporosis.
At menopausal age, a healthy diet, physical activity, and adequate weight can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Reduce osteoporosis risk in older adults by avoiding tobacco and alcohol use.
Follow a healthy, balanced diet, particularly of fruits, vegetables, nuts and calcium-rich foods, such as milk, cheese and other products.
Protect your bones by participating in regular physical activity such as walking, gardening, swimming, bicycling, dancing, or weight-bearing exercises.
In some cases, vitamin D and calcium supplements may also be appropriate for osteoporosis prevention.
To build bone health, try to obtain your vitamin D and calcium needs from dietary sources, such as milk, milk-based products, orange juice, eggs, fish and dairy.
Try to follow a healthy weight and diet.
Dietary supplements do not appear to increase bone density, and regular use may be better avoided.
Provide skin protection, including avoiding sunburns and other risks of sun exposure.
Eliminate or limit your exposure to radiation from consumer products and work.
Take medication only as prescribed.
Monitor medication for interactions with other medications and healthy lifestyle changes.
Keep medications, supplements, and nutritional supplements out of reach of children, and wash them and their containers often to prevent accidental ingestion.
7 tips to help prevent osteoporosis.
- Working out.
- Walking, gardening and other physical activity are excellent ways to build bone density.
- Try to get adequate amounts of exercise such as exercise or walking to a local health clinic to get your body tested.
- Improve bone health by increasing the amount of protein in your diet and supplementing with vitamin D and calcium.
- Eating a healthy diet can increase bone density. But eating more of certain vegetables and foods could decrease your bone density and lower your bones’ mineral content.
- If you have osteoporosis, avoid the use of supplements.
- If you have osteoporosis or other health issues that affect bone health, consider treatment that focuses on preserving bone health rather than treating bone loss.