Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by severely weakened fragile bones. Bones affected by osteoporosis are more likely to fracture due to their weakened state. Left untreated, osteoporosis can progress to severely debilitating bone breaks. The areas most commonly affected by osteoporosis are the wrists, hips and spine.
80% of those afflicted with osteoporosis are female. Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop the disease than any other ethnic groups. It is important to note that gender or ethnicity alone do not determine one's risk factor for osteoporosis. Several factors increase the risk of osteoporosis development. These factors include:
- Advanced age
- Low bone mass
- Family history
- Low calcium intake
- Thin frame
The onset of osteoporosis is gradual. Both men and women begin to lose bone density around the age of 35. Osteoporosis is sometimes referred to as "the silent disease" because pain is not felt until an actual bone fracture occurs.
More than 55%of Americans over the age of 50 have low bone density. This factor combined with the increasing number of seniors in America has led to increased osteoporosis awareness. May is celebrated as National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.
Since osteoporosis is known as "the silent disease," it becomes even more important to actively participate in activities which can lower your risk of developing the condition. There are many ways to lower the risk of osteoporosis development including medication and lifestyle changes. You should always discuss any regimen changes with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to assess your individual needs and recommend a plan that is right for you.
There are several medications that your doctor may recommend or prescribe to reduce the risk of osteoporosis development. Some medications act to increase bone strength and stop bone loss while others increase bone formation. Your medical history, including any previous bone fractures, will be taken into consideration before recommendations are made. You should always take medications as instructed by your doctor to ensure their effectiveness and prevent related complications.
- Biophosphates may be prescribed to reduce the risk of hip, spine, and wrist fractures in post-menopausal women. Commonly prescribed biophosphates include Fosamax and Actonel.
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS) may be prescribed to reduce the risk of fractures in post-menopausal women. Evista is a commonly prescribed SERM.
- Dietary supplements including Vitamin D and calcium may be prescribed to help build and maintain bone density. Your doctor will be able to recommend the required dosage and frequency of these substances.
Additional medication therapies are also available although they are not widely used at this time.
Lifestyle changes may be indicated for osteoporosis prevention. Changing your daily habits may prove difficult. It is important to have a support system in place.
- Plan for regular medical checkups. You will need to receive regular screenings to determine goals and regimen effectiveness. You should be honest with your doctor about any pain or injuries you may experience. This will ensure that the best treatment plan is made.
- Exercise regularly. The level of exercise you should participate in will be determined by an individual assessment. Weight-bearing exercises including jogging, dancing, and walking are great ways to increase bone health. You may want to consider joining an exercise class. This may increase your willingness to participate and will give you a chance to be monitored by the instructor.
- Stop smoking. Smoking cigarettes leads to decreased bone mass and estrogen levels. Smoking also increases the onset of osteoporosis in women.
- Eat a healthy diet. Although you may be taking supplements to aid in your osteoporosis prevention efforts, it is still important to eat foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D. Some dietitians recommend adding powdered milk to foods to increase dietary intake. You should discuss your diet with your doctor or dietitian to decide which alternatives are right for you.
Osteoporosis affects more than 10 million Americans. It is important to remain aware of the threat and take steps to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. You should discuss any symptoms or concerns with your doctor.