Did you know that bone is a living tissue? It's true. During our lives, bone is being continually replaced by new bone. But what happens when you don't produce enough new bone to replace the old? Well, you've got osteoporosis.
In its most basic terms, osteoporosis is when you are losing density in your bones. This loss of density makes your bones more susceptible to breaking. It is the most common bone disease, and heavily prevalent among women. Around 50% of ALL women over 50 years old will fracture a wrist, hip, or a vertebra.
If you've ever broken a bone, you know what a (literal) pain it is and how difficult it can make life. It causes you to adjust the way you do things - from not being able to hold a cup of coffee to wearing a boot or having to use a wheelchair.
Osteoporosis can have a major effect on how you live your life. It's important to know how you get it, and how you manage it so you can live comfortably.
While there are occasions when bone loss occurs with no explanation, there are a several factors that can put a person more at risk.
- For women - a significant drop in estrogen (often triggered at menopause) and a long period of time without menstrual periods
- For men - a drop in testosterone
- A low body weight increases risk
- Smokers have a higher risk of osteoporosis
- Consuming heavy amounts of alcohol
- Osteoporosis presence in family history
- Some medications can reduce bone density
When it comes to risk, the older you are - the more likely. And older white women are at the top of the osteoporosis totem pole.
Diagnosing can be tough, as there are many times when people don't realize they have osteoporosis until they actually break a bone and it is discovered.
Often times a Dexa Scan (a bone mineral density test) will be conducted to gauge the density of your bones and how much bone loss is present. It can also help determine just how likely you are to break more bones. (This helps us determine what physical activities you need to be involved in.)
Treatment of Osteoporosis
Lifestyle changes are often recommended. Diet and exercise can help maintain bone strength. (Diet and exercise are great for almost everything else as well.) Stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol may also be recommended.
Calcium and vitamin D. Milk does a body good? The right amount does. Calcium is an important mineral in bone formation. You could just be deficient here. Ask your doctor what the right amount of calcium is for you.
There are medications for osteoporosis that are often used when a deficiency in bone density is revealed. Depending on your sex and situation, your personal doctor will know best.
Hormonal replacement is also an option - estrogen or testosterone enhancements can get the body jolted back to a healthier bone production level.
Quick Tips to Prevent Falling, If You Have Osteoporosis
- Stay on stable ground - avoid icy sidewalks, slick surfaces
- Use the handles on stairs, to get out of bathtubs
- Leave a few lights on at night - if you can't see where you are going or what you are stepping on, you're asking for a problem
- Don't exercise or go on a walk alone - if you do fall, you need someone there to help
As stated above, osteoporosis is extremely prevalent. Do your best to live a lifestyle that puts your body at less risk or that will limit the effects of bone loss. It's about living healthy to live happily.
- Dr. Cordry
Ryan Cordry, DO, MBA is from St. Joseph, MO and joined the Orthopaedic Specialistsof Alabama Group at UAB Medical West in 2010. He is currently a member of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the American Osteopathic Association of Orthopaedics, and the American Osteopathic Association. In his spare time, Dr. Cordry enjoys spending time with his wife and anything outdoors such as golf, soccer, baseball, fishing, and hunting.