What is Osteoporosis?Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder in which the density and quality of bones are reduced, leading to weakness of the skeleton and increased risk of fracture, particularly of the spine, wrist, and hip. This disease often occurs silently without symptom and the first symptom is a fracture, which is an important cause of mortality and morbidity. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone, which literally means porous bone, and is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased.
Osteoporosis Fast Facts
- Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that makes a person’s bones weak and more likely to break.
- Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk.
- More than 8.9 Million Osteoporosis Fractures Annually
- 54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health.
- One in three women and up to one in five men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. For women, the incidence is greater than that of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
- Diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are the keys to preventing and managing the disease
- Get the calcium and vitamin D you need every day.
- Do regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
- Don’t smoke and don’t drink too much alcohol.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about your chance of getting osteoporosis and ask when you should have a bone density test.
- Take an osteoporosis medication when it’s right for you.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Our bones are living tissues and are constantly being broken down and replaced. This is called remodeling. With this lifelong turnover of bone cells, you replace most of your skeleton every 10 years.
Osteoporosis, or a thinning bone, occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone. Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging, being female, low body weight, low sex hormones or menopause, smoking, and some medications. Prevention and treatment include calcium and vitamin D, exercise, and osteoporosis medications.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
A person is often not aware that he or she has osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. But there are occasionally symptoms of the disorder. They could include:
- Severe Back Pain
- A gradual loss of height
- A stooped posture
- Fractures of the spine, wrist, or hip
Osteoporosis and Spinal Fractures
Fractures caused by osteoporosis most often occur in the spine. These spinal fractures — called vertebral compression fractures — occur in nearly 700,000 patients each year. They are almost twice as common as other fractures typically linked to osteoporosis, such as broken hips and wrists.
When the vertebrae in the spine weaken, they can narrow and become flatter. The weakened vertebrae are at a high risk for fracture. A vertebral compression fracture occurs when too much pressure is placed on a weakened vertebra and the front of it cracks and loses height. Vertebral compression fractures are often the result of a fall, but people with osteoporosis can suffer a fracture even when doing everyday things, such as reaching, twisting, coughing, and sneezing.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed?
Your doctor may use x-ray, body CT, spine CT or a bone density (DEXA) scan to help diagnose your condition and assess your risk for fracture.
NOF recommends that you have a bone density test if:
• you are a woman age 65 or older
• you are a man of the age 70 or older
• you break a bone after age 50
• you are a woman of menopausal age with risk factors
• you are a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with risk factors
• you are a man age 50-69 with risk factors
A bone density test may also be necessary if you have any of the following:
• an X-ray of your spine showing a break or bone loss in your spine
• back pain with a possible break in your spine
• height loss of ½ inch or more within one year
• total height loss of 1½ inches from your original height
What can you do to protect your bones?
• Get enough calcium and vitamin D and eat a well-balanced diet.
• Engage in regular exercise.
• Eat foods that are good for bone health, such as fruits and vegetables.
• Avoid smoking and limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks per day.
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National Osteoporosis Foundation, I www.nof.org