On Saturday, we discussed Arthritis Awareness Month. Today, we are focusing on osteoporosis, as May is also Osteoporosis Awareness Month. This condition commonly affects women, but can also impact men. Experts estimate that one in five American women over age 50 has osteoporosis. Even more troubling: approximately 50 percent of women over the age of 50 will suffer a hip, wrist or vertebra fracture. Read on for information on how to prevent weakened bones, risk factors, complications and treatment options if you do have this condition.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis occurs when the body either does not make enough bone tissue or it absorbs too much of the tissue, leading to the thinning of bone tissue and the loss of bone density over time.
Who is at risk?
The leading cause of osteoporosis is the drop in estrogen that occurs during menopause in women, as well as reduced levels of testosterone in men. Because of these risk factors, women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70 are most at risk for osteoporosis.
What are the symptoms?
During the early stages of the disease, there are often no symptoms at all. However, when they do occur, symptoms include:
- Bones that fracture easily with little to no trauma/impact
- Bone pain or tenderness
- Loss of up to six inches of height over time
- Stooped posture can cause the back to have a “hump”
- Pain in the lower back or neck due to small fractures
If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor. He or she can perform a bone mineral density test to determine how strong your bones are.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment options are designed to strengthen bones, as well as reduce pain, bone loss and the chance of fractures. Options can include:
- Prescription medications
- Hormone replacement therapy
- A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
Osteoporosis can best be prevented by:
- A diet rich in bone-building vitamin D and calcium
- Avoiding excess alcohol
- Not smoking
- Staying physically fit and active