Osteoporosis is a common bone disorder that causes bones to become thin, weakened, and prone to fracture. Over 10 million Americans are affected by osteoporosis. Women are at higher risk for osteoporosis after menopause due to lower levels of estrogen, a female hormone that helps to maintain bone mass. Women with osteoporosis are at risk to suffer from broken bones which can lead for further medical problems. Risk factors for osteoporosis include age (>50), female, postmenopausal, family history of osteoporosis, low body weight, previous bone fractures, poor diet, inactive lifestyle, smoking and alcohol. There are also certain medical conditions and medications that increase the risk for osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is detected by a simple x-ray test called a DXA scan, better known as a bone density test. This is a brief x-ray scan that measures the bone density in the hip and spine. A screening DXA scan should be done starting at the age of 65. It may be done earlier if you have certain risk factors including previous fractures, low body weight, smoking, excessive alcohol use, rheumatoid arthritis or are taking steroid medications.
There are numerous treatments for osteoporosis. The most important treatment is preventing it in the first place! The point when you have the greatest amount of bone you will ever have is usually between the ages of 18 and 25 so it is important to build up strong bones early on in life.
A healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential to supporting bone health. Additionally, weight bearing exercises promote strong bones. Be sure to exercise for 30 minutes at least a few times a week. If you are a smoker, you should stop smoking since smoking can speed up bone loss. Finally, take measures to prevent falling. A fall greatly increases the risk of fracturing a bone. If a bone density scan shows you have osteoporosis, there are several medications that can help treat this and reduce your risk of fracture.
For more information on osteoporosis, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases