A Complete Guide to Osteoporosis

A Complete Guide to Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, is a bone disorder that occurs as the body loses too much calcium causing the bone to become weak. Osteoporosis is called the silent disease because many people do not know they have it until they have a minor fall and break a bone. In serious cases of osteoporosis, a fracture may occur from simply sneezing or bumping into something.

Both men and women can have osteoporosis, but some factors put you at higher risk.

  • Gender – osteoporosis is more common in women
  • Age – people over the age of 65 are at higher risk
  • Body size – small, thin women are at greater risk
  • Ethnicity – white and Asian women have an increased incidence
  • Family history – osteoporosis tends to run in families

A bone density test (or DEXA scan) is recommended for most women age 65 or older. Doctors may recommend this scan for younger women who have one or more risk factors. If you believe you may be at risk, discuss your concerns with your personal doctor.

Bone density tests have a wide range of results.

  • Normal – the density of the bone is normal
  • Osteopenia – characterized by bone density that is below normal levels
    • To treat osteopenia, your personal doctor may recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements and monitor your status by suggesting periodic bond density scans.
  • Osteoporosis – occurs when bone density is considered abnormally low
    • In most cases, treating osteoporosis requires prescription medication under the direction of your personal doctor.

Always consult with your personal doctor before starting any new prescription or over the counter medication(s). Dietary supplements such as calcium and vitamin D should only be added to your medication regimen after talking to your doctor, because they may negatively affect other health conditions.

Living a healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk of developing brittle bones.

  • Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, including low fat milk, yogurt, cheese and foods with added calcium – orange juice, cereals and breads are all good sources
  • Exercise such as walking, hiking, dancing and lifting weights help increase bone strength
  • Eliminate or limit alcohol intake
  • Avoid smoking, or take steps to quit

Minor home modifications can also decrease your risk of a fall and broken bone.

  • Keep rooms free of clutter and avoid using throw rugs
  • Wear low healed, non-slip shoes
  • Install grab bars near showers, tubs and toilets
  • Add lights to dark rooms

For more information please see the following resources.

Falls Brochure

Keeping Your Bones Strong

The National Institute of Health on Osteoporosis

SilverSneakers – Osteoporosis and Exercise

If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact the Quality Health Integration Department at QI@networkhealth.com.


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