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Bone Health and Osteoporosis Care

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass and density resulting in brittle, fragile bones that are more susceptible to fractures. It is often called a "silent disease," as a majority of patients may be unaware of their condition until they develop a bone fracture.

Bone is a growing tissue composed mainly of calcium and proteins. Constant reformation of bone takes place as calcium is absorbed by your body. Osteoporosis is a condition in which the calcium from the bone is not replaced when it is removed, forming “porous bones” which cause the bones to become brittle and weak. Therefore, if you have osteoporosis and you fall, you are at a higher risk of breaking a bone. If osteoporosis is not identified and treated appropriately, it can progress without any symptoms until you break a bone (fracture). Fractures associated with osteoporosis may take a very long time to heal or even cause permanent disability.

Who is at Risk of Osteoporosis?

Women are at a higher risk than men for developing osteoporosis. Other factors include:

  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Aging
  • Thin and small body frame
  • Low levels of estrogen and post-menopause
  • Certain endocrine disorders such as diabetes
  • Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and malabsorption syndromes or malnutrition
  • Certain medications such as steroids, immunosuppressants, anticoagulants, antiepileptic, and thyroid suppressive therapy

Diagnosis of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because people can have it and not even know. It is best treated if detected early. Your doctor will order a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry or DEXA scan to measure your bone density. Normally, this starts at age 65 for women and 70 for men, but risk factors such as prior broken bones, family history, loss in height, gastric bypass, smoking and others may make you a candidate for one earlier. The DEXA scan should be repeated every 2 years because, again, early detection is key.

Treatment of Osteoporosis

There have been great advancements in the treatment of osteoporosis. Treatment decisions will be made between you and your doctor based on your history, medical conditions, labs and DEXA scan. There are many different treatment options ranging from lifestyle changes, weight-bearing exercises, calcium and vitamin D supplementation, and medications. We now have medications that not only keep bone from getting weaker, but actually make bone stronger and greatly reduce the risk of fractures (broken bones).

Preventing Osteoporosis

Some of the preventive measures that can help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis include:

  • Consume a healthy well-balanced diet
  • Get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake and smoking
  • Exercise regularly