A: Osteoporosis is when the bones lose calcium, which decreases the bone mass. In turn, the bone weakens and is more likely to break.
All adults suffer some loss of bone mass, usually starting around the age of 35. Women tend to develop osteoporosis more often than men. This is because they start with less bone mass, tend to live longer, and their calcium intake is less than that of men. Women also see an increase chance of osteoporosis after menopause due to the decreased level of estrogen.
There are many other risk factors for osteoporosis. Some include early menopause (before age 45), family history of osteoporosis, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol abuse, eating disorders, small body frame, hyperthyroid and long-term use of steroids. There are not many signs of osteoporosis. Generally, by the time physical signs appear, a significant amount of bone loss has already occurred. Signs of advanced disease include loss of height and frequent broken bones.
Diagnosis of osteoporosis is done through a Bone Mineral Density Study. It is a noninvasive test that measures the density of your bones. Those who should be tested include women older than 65 and men older than 70, younger women who are postmenopausal, men aged 50 – 69 with fracture risk factors (discussed earlier), anyone with a bone fracture after age 50 and dults with a medical condition or medication that decreases bone mass.
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, treatment first begins with diet. It is recommended that calcium and vitamin D intake increases. It is recommended to supplement with 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium daily along with 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D. Exercise is also a good way of increasing bone density. For advanced disease, prescription medications are available. These come in pill form or injection form.They are used to slow the progression of osteoporosis and in some cases, reverse bone loss.
Information from www.familydoctor.org, provided by Amy Lamberti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Medicine, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.