What is Osteoporosis?
The condition of osteoporosis decreases bone density and strength, and makes them fragile. Such weakened bones suffer frequent fractures. Even a minor injury can cause bones to fracture if affected by osteoporosis.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Most often this condition is asymptomatic and may remain undetected until the patient suffers a fracture. Such fractures are very painful.
Risk factors of Osteoporosis
The following people are more at risk of suffering from osteoporosis:
- Asian and Caucasian races
- Small and thin body frame
- Osteoporosis in the family
- Cigarette smokers
- Heavy drinkers
- Sedentary people
- Low calcium diet
- Poor health and nutrition
- Women with low estrogen levels
- Men with low testosterone levels
- Chronic inflammation caused by liver diseases or rheumatoid arthritis
- Immobility caused by stroke
- Lack of vitamin D
- Prolonged use of medications like the blood thinner heparin, phenobarbital and phenytoin (Dilantin) (these are antiseizure medications) and prednisone (an oral corticosteroid).
Who should undergo bone density testing
The following groups are advised to undergo DXA testing:
- Women older than 65
- Postmenopausal women under 65 who are at risk of osteoporosis
Treatment for Osteoporosis
Treatment should aim at increasing bone strength and density. However there are no complete cures. The following medications help to increase bone strength and prevent bone loss: denosumab (Prolia), zoledronate (Reclast), calcitonin (Calcimar), ibandronate (Boniva), raloxifene (Evista), risedronate (Actonel) and alendronate (Fosamax). Teriparatide (Forteo) helps to increase bone formation.
How to Prevent Osteoporosis
When it comes to this deadly bone disease, prevention is very important. The following lifestyle changes can help you prevent osteoporosis:
- Consuming a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking, if a smoker
Caution about Exercise
People with weakened bones should avoid exercising. Those over 40 and patients suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease should get clearance from their doctor before embarking on a regimen of regular exercise. People who train for extreme sports like marathon running risk injuring the bones in their legs and feet.
Caution about Smoking
Regular smoking has a disastrous effect especially on women. It can decrease estrogen levels and lead to bone loss before menopause. Postmenopausal women who smoke regularly have a higher risk of osteoporosis. It is also advisable to go easy on caffeine and alcohol to prevent osteoporosis.