What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition marked by the weakening of the bones. This condition can often result in bone fractures, also known as fragility fractures. Osteoporosis affects 21.2% of women and 6.3% of men over the age of 50.

How Does it Happen?

As your body ages, you begin producing less new bone than is naturally broken down. This results in lower bone density, which ultimately leads to osteoporosis. Several factors contribute to low bone density. Among them are a sedentary lifestyle, use of tobacco, excessive alcohol use, low calcium intake, and taking certain medications. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop osteoporosis, and it tends to be more common in women than in men.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

Initially, you may not have symptoms, but osteoporosis can present itself in several ways:

  • Stooped posture
  • Back pain
  • "Shrinking" or losing height
  • A fracture of the hip, wrist, spine, etc.

How is it Diagnosed?

Your doctor may suspect osteoporosis just based on your symptoms, but he or she may run tests to be sure. The most common one is dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) Bone Density Screenings, which measures the density of bones.

How is it Treated?

In most cases, your doctor will prescribe medications that can help stop bone loss and help preserve bone mass. Other treatments may include physical therapy, calcium and vitamin D supplements, smoking cessation, and diet modifications.

What can I do to Prevent Fractures in the Future?

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or concerned you are at risk, it is important take steps to help strengthen your bones and prevent falls:

  • Talk to your primary care provider about an evaluation for osteoporosis including a DXA scan. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, discuss medications for treatment.
  • Review your medications with your primary care provider to rule out any secondary causes of osteoporosis.
  • Include calcium and vitamin D rich foods in your diet such as cheese, milk, yogurt, spinach, dried beans/lentils, or fortified items such as orange juice and cold/hot cereals.
  • Increase your activity to include weight-bearing exercises to help strengthen your bones and improve balance.
  • Remove any tripping hazards from your home, including throw rugs or extension cords. Install grab bars in the shower, if needed.
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