One of the most common health problems in the United States, osteoporosis affects more than 44 million Americans and contributes to an estimated 2 million fractures each year. Fifty percent of women and 25% of men over the age of 50 will sustain fractures thanks to osteoporosis. Many fractures happen as a result of a fall, but even simple household tasks can cause severely osteoporotic bones to fracture.
Though the exact causes of osteoporosis are unknown, doctors have identified many major factors that can lead to the disease.
- Aging. Losing bone with age is a natural phenomenon, and after the age of 35, the body builds less new bone to replace the loss of old bone. As a general rule, your bone mass goes down as your age goes up, and thusly your risk for osteoporosis increases.
- Heredity. A family history of the disease, fair skin, and Caucasian or Asian descent can increase the risk for osteoporosis. This fact may help explain why some develop the disease early in life.
- Nutrition and Lifestyle. A calcium-deficient diet, excessively low weight, and a sedentary lifestyle have all been linked to osteoporosis, along with smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Medications and Other Illness. Some medications, including steroids, and other diseases like thyroid problems have been linked to osteoporosis.
The most effective way to prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis is to take in adequate amounts of calcium and Vitamin D and maintain an active lifestyle.
While a person’s body is developing, it needs a supply of calcium to build strong bones and to create calcium reserves. Taking measures to ensure your body has what it needs to create strong bones early on in life is an important contribution for the future.
Even though calcium cannot prevent gradual bone loss after menopause, it is still vital to take in as the body loses calcium each day, and it plays a vital role in maintaining bone quality.
Dairy products are excellent calcium sources, and an eight-ounce glass of milk contains nearly 300mg of calcium on its own. If your diet doesn’t supply enough calcium, a supplement can help.
While calcium is vital for bone strength, Vitamin D is what allows your body to absorb calcium. The recommended dose of Vitamin D is 200-600 IU (international units) each day, with a cup of milk containing around 100 IU. Supplements can be taken if your diet is Vitamin D deficient, but consult with a doctor first.
A doctor will make the diagnosis by using a combination of complete medical history, physical examination, skeletal x-rays, bone densitometry, and lab tests.
Bone densitometry uses x-rays to compare your bone density to that of someone of your same sex and ethnicity at the time of peak density which is from 20 to 25 years of age.
Lost bone cannot be replaced, and as such, treatment focuses on preventing the condition from becoming worse. Treatment plans often involve work from physicians, orthopaedists, a gynecologist, and an endocrinologist.
In addition to exercise and nutrition, there are other treatments as well:
- Estrogen Replacement Therapy – Often offered to women at high risk for osteoporosis, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) helps prevent bone loss and reduce fracture risk. The hormones also help prevent heart disease and improve cognitive function but can increase the risk for breast cancer.
- Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators – Known as SERMs, these anti-estrogens can increase bone mass, reduce fracture risk, and lower the risk for breast cancer.
- Calcitonin – This medication is available in nasal spray form, and helps increase bone mass and relieve pain.
- Bisphosphonates – These significantly increase bone mass and help prevent spine and hip fractures.
If you’re suffering from osteoporosis or have experienced a fracture as a result of the condition, request an appointment online or at 904-825-0540 with our team of orthopaedic specialists today. We’re here to help you get back to doing what you love most.