Osteoporosis is a condition that causes brittle bones that can break easily. A minor injury or fall can result in a fracture in a person with osteoporosis. A lack of calcium in the bones often results in this condition. Focusing on bone health at an early age can help prevent osteoporosis, but even those who are older can take steps to strengthen their bones.
Like many medical conditions, osteoporosis has some risk factors that are out of your control, as well as some that you can influence. Age, race, gender, family history, excess thyroid hormone and frame size are set, and you can’t do anything about them. In general, women are more likely to get osteoporosis. People who are white or Asian are also at an increased risk. Those with a small frame or very low BMI don’t have as much bone mass so they too face a higher risk of osteoporosis. The risk factors you can change include low calcium consumption, smoking or other tobacco use, eating disorders, lack of exercise and consuming large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of osteoporosis often don’t appear until the bone is already weak. Some later symptoms might include bone fractures, decreased height, back pain and a curvature to the upper back. The back pain can be caused by fractures or compression of the vertebrae.
Various tests, along with your medical history and a physical exam, help a doctor diagnose osteoporosis. Bone density tests are typically used for the diagnosis, particularly if the patient has not had any broken bones, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Aside from analyzing the density of the bones, the test also assesses your risk of breaking a bone. Blood and urine lab tests give a more accurate view of the situation, giving the doctor an idea of the cause of osteoporosis. X-rays, vertebral fracture assessments, CT scans and MRIs are also used in some cases, particularly if the patient has back pain or height loss.
Osteoporosis has no cure, but doctors have several treatment options available. Medications can help slow bone loss, although some studies have suggested a connection with jawbone decay. Estrogen replacement therapy is sometimes used in post-menopausal women to decrease bone loss. It carries increased risks for certain cancers, blood clots and heart disease, so it isn’t ideal for all people. Physical therapy can help increase bone strength while improving balance to help prevent the incidence of falls.
Most young people don’t think about osteoporosis, but paying attention to your bone health at an early age may benefit you as you age. Physical activity helps strengthen the bones to prevent bone loss. Calcium and vitamin D consumption also help you avoid osteoporosis. Choose calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, broccoli, sardines, almonds and soy foods. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are also an option. Limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can also reduce your risks of osteoporosis.