Osteoporosis- What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis (OS-tee-oh-poh-ROH-sis) is a disease of the bones. People with osteoporosis have bones that are weak and break easily.

A broken bone can really affect your life. It can cause severe pain and disability. It can make it harder to do daily tasks on your own, such as walking.

What bones does osteoporosis affect?

Osteoporosis affects all bones in the body. However, breaks are most common in the hip, wrist, and spine, also called vertebrae (VUR-tuh-bray). Vertebrae support your body, helping you to stand and sit up. See the picture below.

What increases my chances of getting osteoporosis?

There are several risk factors that raise your chances of developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors are things you can control, while some you can’t control.

  • Factors that you can’t control:
  • Being female
  • Having a small, thin body (under 127 pounds)
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Being over 65 years old
  • Being white or Asian, but African American and Hispanic/Latina women are also at risk
  • Not getting your period (if you should be getting it)
  • Having anorexia nervosa
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Long-term use of certain medicines, including:
    • Glucocorticoids (GLOO-koh-KOR-ti-koids) — medicines used to treat many illnesses, including arthritis, asthma, and lupus
    • Some antiseizure medicines
    • Gonadotropin (GOH-nad-oo-TROO-pin) -releasing hormone — used to treat endometriosis (en-doh-mee-tree-O-sis)
    • Antacids with aluminum — the aluminum blocks calcium absorption
    • Some cancer treatments
    • Too much replacement thyroid hormone

Factors that you can control:

  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Experts recommend no more than 1 drink a day for women.
  • A diet low in dairy products or other sources of calcium and vitamin D
  • Not getting enough exercise

You may also develop symptoms that are warning signs for osteoporosis. If you develop the following, you should talk to your doctor about any tests or treatment you many need:

  • Loss in height, developing a slumped or hunched posture, or onset of sudden unexplained back pain.
  • You are over age 45 or a post-menopausal and you break a bone.

How can I find out if I have weak bones?

There are tests you can get to find out your bone density. This is related to how strong or fragile your bones are. One test is called dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). A DXA scan takes X-rays of your bones. Talk with your doctor or nurse about this.

When should I get a bone density test?

If you are age 65 and older, you should get a bone density test. Women age 60 to 64 with risk factors for osteoporosis and women over 45 who have broken any bones should also get tested. If you are age 40 to 60, you should discuss risk factors and testing with your doctor or nurse.

How can I prevent weak bones?

The best way to prevent weak bones is to work on building strong ones. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to start. Building strong bones during childhood and the teen years is one of the best ways to keep from getting osteoporosis later. As you get older, your bones don’t make new bone fast enough to keep up with the bone loss. And after menopause, bone loss happens more quickly. But there are steps you can take to slow the natural bone loss with aging and to prevent your bones from becoming weak and brittle.

1. Get enough calcium each day.

Bones contain a lot of calcium. It is important to get enough calcium in your diet. You can get calcium through foods and/or calcium pills, which you can get at the grocery store or drug store. Getting calcium through food is definitely better since the food provides other nutrients that keep you healthy. Talk with your doctor or nurse before taking calcium pills to see which kind is best for you. Taking more calcium pills than recommended doesn’t improve your bone health. So, try to reach these goals through a combination of food and supplements.