Osteoporosis is a reduction of density in bone tissue. It is caused by reduced calcium content in the bones, and it causes the bones to become weak. Weak bones break easily. Worldwide it affects 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men over age 50. The disease most commonly affects postmenopausal women.
If not prevented or diagnosed and treated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly, and may not be discovered until a bone breaks. Any bone can be affected, but the breaks that cause the most concern are those in the hips and the spine. A fractured hip usually requires hospitalization and major surgery. Spine fractures can also cause hospitalization and surgery, and also can cause acute, and possibly chronic, back pain.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Being advanced in age
- Being a thin and petite woman
- Taking certain medications
- Being a white or Asian woman
- Having certain chronic diseases
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Smoking cigarettes
- Using alcohol excessively
- Having osteopenia (low bone mass).
Osteoporosis in later life can be prevented or lessened by lifestyle choices in adolescence and middle age, including maintaining a diet high in calcium-rich foods and by exercising.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed through a bone mineral density test, which is an x-ray that evaluates bone mass. It is recommended that all women over the age of 60 be screened for osteoporosis. Women under the age of 60 should be screened depending on their risk factors. Screening for men is primarily determined by their risk factors.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are several medication alternatives that treat the disease. Our Family Medicine Associates doctors and nurse practitioners will help you determine which one is right for you.
Lifestyle modification is also an important part of the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis:
- Consume appropriate amounts of calcium-rich foods as well as calcium and vitamin D supplements. Women over the age of 50 should consume 1200–1500 mg of calcium daily along with 800–1000 units of vitamin D. (Calcium strengthens the bones, and vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium.)
- Exercise is also an important part of the treatment because it strengthens bones.
For more information regarding osteoporosis screening and prevention, contact your FMA health care provider.