Osteoporosis is a bone disease caused by loss of bone mass and weakening of bone tissue. It can cause bones to break easily. Eating dairy foods, exercising, and taking calcium may help your bones be stronger, but you can still get the disease. Bottom line: you should know whether you are at risk.
The more you know about strong bones, the more you can do to keep yours strong.
Bones are made of living tissue. The body uses food and exercise to replace bone tissue and make it stronger. In your lifetime, old bone is broken down and replaced by new bone all the time.
However, during the first few years after menopause, a woman's bone breakdown increases. When bone breakdown increases faster than new bone is formed, bones become weak and more likely to break. Because osteoporosis can be painless, you may have no warning before a bone breaks. That's why osteoporosis has been called a silent epidemic. Breaking a bone is often the first sign that someone has osteoporosis.
But even though there is no cure for osteoporosis, we know how to catch it early and how to treat it. Read more to see if you are at risk.
Are you at risk?
One in two women and one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone because of osteoporosis in their lifetime. This includes an estimated 300,000 hip breaks every year. A broken hip hurts, and getting better is very hard work. After breaking a bone, your risk is two to four times higher that you will break a bone again.
Please circle the risk factors below that apply to you. Then take this list to your next checkup.
- Age 65 or older
- Alcohol use
- Broken bones after age 50
- Caffeine use
- Race - people who are white or Asian have a greater risk
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Gender - women have a higher risk
- Low weight
- Not eating or drinking enough calcium
- Not enough estrogen (ask your doctor)
- Not enough exercise
- Use of steroids, thyroid, and antiseizure medicines - these may contribute to a decrease in bone mass
Have you been tested for osteoporosis?
Healthy living is not enough to protect against osteoporosis. Most people do not know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. You need to be tested to know where you stand. Talk to your doctor about getting some of the advanced new tests that are offered today.
- All women who have gone through menopause, if they have one or more risk factors other than menopause. See above for a list of risk factors
- All women age 65 and older
- Women who are thinking about treatment for osteoporosis
- Women who have been on hormone therapy for a long time
- Men or women with rheumatoid arthritis
- Men or women who are taking certain medicines, such as glucocorticoids or prednisone, for a long period
Here are some things you can do to strengthen your bones:
- Exercise regularly. To help your bones, work out with weights or do things like walking or biking. With your doctor's help, try to work up to 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
- Build up bones at the dinner table. Leafy green vegetables and low-fat milk with vitamin D can boost bone-building calcium. Avoid coffee, tea, and colas that contain caffeine, as well as alcohol. All of these can cause bone loss.
- Ask about medicine or a supplement. If you already have bone loss, new drugs can help slow it down. Some drugs can even build bone back up. Talk to your doctor about what you need, and follow directions to learn how you can keep your bones strong.
- Keep taking your medicine. If you have osteopenia, a thinning of the bones, or osteoporosis, the loss of bone tissue, keep taking the medicines given to you by your doctor. It's the best way to reduce your risk of broken bones.
Tell your doctor right away if you notice any of these:
- Height loss
- Neck pain or discomfort in the neck other than from injury or trauma
- Bent posture or an outward curve at the top of the spine
You should see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Having one or more does not necessarily mean you have osteoporosis, but it's important to let your doctor be the judge.
Set up your testing today!
All women over age 65 and men over age 70 should get tested for osteoporosis every two years - or more often if you are at risk. If you have never been tested, talk to your doctor about which test is right for you.
You can find out more by visiting the National Osteoporosis Foundation at www.nof.org
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