Osteoporosis (meaning “bone” and “porous”) should be screened for regularly.
Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when bones become more brittle after estrogen is no longer produced by your body. Estrogen helps to keep bones strong, but with a loss in bone density, bone marrow becomes more spaced out than the normal honeycomb shape that comprises healthy bones. (See the picture below)
One in two women will break a bone due to osteoporosis, and one in four men will suffer the same. Fortunately, there are ways to lessen your risk for osteoporosis later in life. Exercising regularly, abstaining from smoking, and eating a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium are all excellent practices.
After age 65, your doctor will likely test your bone density during your checkups.
How Does Osteoporosis Affect the Body?
Over time, our bodies can fall victim to loss of bone mass. This condition makes the bones fragile, and when they are fragile, they are prone to painful fractures. Osteoporosis typically affects bones in the wrists, hips, and spine.
How Common Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common disease – the problem impacts one in three women around the world. One in five men over the age of fifty find that they have osteoporosis.
Which Factors Increase a Person’s Risk of Developing Osteoporosis?
Many risk factors for osteoporosis are unavoidable. Older female patients have an increased risk of this condition, as do people who have a family history of it. Those who have a lower level of sex hormones (estrogen in women and testosterone in men), have a low body weight, or have experienced menopause are also at risk. Medical conditions like intestinal problems and kidney disease are also factors.
Smokers, patients with poor diet, and patients who are not very physically active are putting themselves at a higher risk to develop osteoporosis. Alcohol can also have a negative effect, as can certain medications. Your doctor may recommend avoiding these factors if you are already at risk for developing osteoporosis.
What Are the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
There are usually no immediate visible symptoms of osteoporosis. Some of the common reported symptoms are:
- Hip, spine, or wrist fractures
- Backaches and other pains in the bones and muscles
- Posture issues and a decrease in height
Is Osteoporosis Preventable?
Osteoporosis is a preventable condition. Making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating proper nutrients and exercising regularly can make a huge difference in the onset of the condition, as can curbing alcohol intake and smoking.
Can Osteoporosis Be Reversed?
Osteoporosis is a non-curable condition. However, studies have shown that bones can become stronger, which reverses the progression of osteoporosis. When the bones are less fragile, it reduces the risk of fractures.
What Are Some Common Treatments for Osteoporosis?
There are several treatment options that have been shown to treat osteoporosis. Osteoporosis medicine makes fragile bones stronger. A typical route is taking medicine that contains bisphosphonates, which help keep your body from breaking down your bones. Physical therapy can also help, as can hormone-replacement therapy and taking calcium and vitamin D regularly.
For further reading, see hormone.org’s Q&A on menopause bone loss.