Understanding Osteoporosis

Our bones are a living, changing part of our bodies. We continually lose old bone and make new. When we’re young, we make new bone faster than we lose old bone. We reach peak bone mass in our late 20s, and after that, we tend to lose more bone than we add. Over time, we can develop osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become porous and brittle. With weaker bones, we’re more likely to experience fractures.

More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis.

For many people, the first sign of osteoporosis is a broken bone. If you are at risk of osteoporosis, you might want to take a bone density test to find out whether you should take action — before you break a bone.

Who is at risk of osteoporosis?

You’re more likely to develop osteoporosis if you are

  • female
  • underweight
  • of European or Asian ancestry
  • have a family history of osteoporosis

You’re also more likely to develop osteoporosis if you

  • smoke
  • drink to excess
  • have poor nutrition
  • don’t exercise

Certain medical conditions and even some medications can also contribute to osteoporosis. Some risk factors are under your control and some are not. 

How is osteoporosis treated?

Osteoporosis is generally diagnosed with a bone density test.

There are medications that are prescribed for osteoporosis. However, if your risk of fracture is not high, your doctor may choose to work with you on lifestyle changes and strategies to avoid falls

Safe, low-impact weight-bearing exercises like walking can help slow down bone loss. Getting plenty of calcium and Vitamin D from foods like green leafy vegetables and eggs can also help. Supplements don’t seem to have the same effects as these nutrients do when they come from food.

Giving up cigarettes, colas, and alcohol can also be a good decision. 

These lifestyle changes don’t cure or reverse osteoporosis, but they can reduce the chances of fractures. They are helpful even if you need medication as well. 

If you are concerned about osteoporosis, talk with your doctor. He or she may refer you to a rheumatologist.