Are you at risk for osteoporosis?

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You may be worried about getting osteoporosis. If your doctor says that you have a high chance of getting osteoporosis, that means you may have one or more risk factors. You can prevent or manage your osteoporosis through risk management.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. This happens when the damage of bone tissue occurs faster than the production of new bone cells.  Most people don’t know they have osteoporosis until they notice height loss or until they break a bone.

In early stages, you might not know if you have osteoporosis because there is no physical sign of the condition. But once the bones have become weak, you might notice:

  • Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra;
  • Loss of height over time;
  • A stooped posture;
  • A bone fracture that occurs from even a small bump.

What increases my risk of osteoporosis?

People with risk factors are more likely to have osteoporosis. There are factors that you cannot control and factors that you can manage. Having a good prevention can reduce your risk of getting osteoporosis and avoid progress of your condition if you already have it.

Unmanageable factors of osteoporosis

  • Age: If you are over 50 you are at higher risk. At about 30 years old, your body reach what is called “peak mass” of bone density. From that point on, the production of new bone slows down, while old bones continuously degenerate. At some point, the speed of bone decay will catch up and exceed the speed of new bones being made.
  • Gender: Women have a higher chance of getting osteoporosis more than men. The International Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that osteoporosis affects about 200 million women worldwide. Even from as early at the age of 20, women start losing their bone mass. Between the age of 20 and 80, women may lose about one-third of their bone density. When compared to men, they only lose one-fourth of their bone density. Women who are over 50 years of age will have menopause. This causes the lack of estrogen that can contribute to weaker bones.
  • Ethnicity: Asians already have smaller body frame and smaller bones when compared to other ethnicities. This makes their bone mass lower than world wide’s average. Asian women tend to consume less calcium in their diet. This means less milk, cheese, and other calcium-rich dairy products.
  • Family history: Having a family member with osteoporosis might increase your chance. Recent researchs are trying to identify the specific gene that causes osteoporosis. A study found that each genetic variant represents a small increase in osteoporosis risk.
  • Natural body built: Having low body weight/being small and thin usually means you have less bone mass than other people. This also means that you are more likely to lose bone mass faster than other people.
  • Accident: Broken bones can lead to the body losing calcium and cause height loss.

Manageable factors of osteoporosis

  • Your diet: The easiest way to provide the body calcium and vitamin D is to eat healthily. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D, not eating enough fruits and vegetables or consuming too much protein, sodium and caffeine can lead to calcium deficiency.
  • Your exercise routine: Not having enough exercise or being inactive will increase your risk for osteoporosis.
  • Smoking and alcohol: Smoking and alcohol have a direct effect on your heath. In a survey between smoker and non-smokers, compared with those who had never smoked, current smokers had about a 50% higher incidence of reporting pain. In alcohol users, research has shown that alcohol can cause muscle cramps and skinny skeleton in people.
  • Your weight: The heavier you are, the more weight you put on your joints and bones. Obesity can lead to several musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, gout, and fibromyalgia.
  • Office workers: When you spend most of your time sitting, you increase your risk for osteoporosis. Sitting not only makes you less active but also causes poor posture and back problems. You can manage by engaging in activities that promote balance and bone strengthening.
  • Steroid use: Long-term corticosteroid use can interfere with the bone-rebuilding process. You can talk to your doctor to find alternative treatments for your condition.

Treatment for osteoporosis

Your treatment depends on your chances of breaking a bone within the next 10 years. This information is gathered from your bone density test. If your risk is low, your doctor will suggest to you focus on lifestyle changes and risk management. These include the following:

  • Don’t smoke;
  • Avoid drinking excessive alcohol;
  • Be active: Some exercise you can do are walking, swimming;
  • Prevent falls: Make sure your house and work are safe for you. This means to place anti-slip rugs in areas where you may fall or trip. You can also wear low-heeled shoes with nonslip soles;
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Make sure you are not overweight or obese. This can cause stress on your bones and be more prone to injury;
  • Maintain a healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D: Your diet should include the essential nutrients to make your bones strong. This will help decrease your risk of bone breaking.

When your chances of breaking a bone become higher, your doctor will suggest some medications to prevent bone loss and treat osteoporosis. These drugs belong to a class called bisphosphonates. These include the following drugs:

  • Alendronate (Fosamax®);
  • Risedronate (Actonel®, Atelvia®);
  • Ibandronate (Boniva®);
  • Zoledronic acid (Reclast®).

These drugs can cause some side effects such as nausea, abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing and inflamed esophagus or esophageal ulcers. These side effects are less likely to occur when taken properly. It should be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach with just a glass of water. You should avoid lying down for at least 30 minutes to avoid irritation in the esophagus. Please discuss with your doctor for proper dosage.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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