Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disorder that causes bones to become weak and brittle. It causes bones to become progressively more fragile, leading to an increased risk of fracture. Bones can become so frail that fractures may occur with even mild stresses, such as coughing or bending over. It is a quiet disease, with hard to detect warning signs and symptoms until fractures occur.
While osteoporosis affects far more women than men in the United States, older males are also impacted. Nearly a quarter of men over the age of 50 also end up with osteoporosis-related fractures. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist, or spine.
Accelerated bone loss is particularly associated with menopause and in later years. Many factors, including diet and the lack of proper exercise, contribute to bone loss during these periods. It can also occur due to numerous underlying conditions that generally only can be discovered during the course of a doctor visit.
Preventing or Slowing the Onset of Osteoporosis
Preventive methods exist to prevent or slow the onset of osteoporosis, and a variety of treatments designed to maximize bone strength and minimize fracture risk.
Many studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients for bone health. Your bones need a steady supply of calcium every day to renew and repair and replace what is lost. Though food remains the best source of calcium, some people may need additional calcium in the form of supplements.
Regular exercise and healthy habits like maintaining a healthy weight, avoid tobacco, and drinking alcohol in moderation is also crucial.
Your doctor will use a DXA bone mineral density test (also called DEXA or bone densitometry) to determine whether or not you have osteoporosis. A blood and urine test is also normally used to rule out other possible conditions or medical concerns.
There are also treatment programs that your doctor can recommend to lower your risk of fracture if you have osteoporosis.