What is Osteoporosis?

Alina Campos Vega.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.

Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity.

While women are four times more likely than men to develop the disease, men also suffer from osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis affects an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age and older. Ten percent of Hispanic women aged 50 and older are estimated to have osteoporosis, and 49 percent are estimated to have low bone mass. Twenty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are men. Three percent of Hispanic men aged 50 and older are estimated to have osteoporosis, and 23 percent are estimated to have low bone mass. Women with a hip fracture are at a four-fold greater risk of a second one, and the risk factors are similar to those for the first hip fracture.

RISK FACTORS:
Factors that increase likelihood of developing osteoporosis and fractures are called “risk factors.” These risk factors include:

• Personal history of fracture after age 50
• Current low bone mass
• History of fracture in a 1 relative
• Being female
• Being thin and/or having a small frame
• Advanced age
• A family history of osteoporosis
• Estrogen deficiency as a result of menopause, especially early or surgically induced
• Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
• Anorexia nervosa
• Low lifetime calcium intake
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Use of certain medications (coricosteroids, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants and others)
• Presence of certain chronic medical conditions
• Low testosterone levels in men
• An inactive lifestyle
• Current cigarette smoking
• Excessive use of alcohol
• Being Caucasian or Asian, although African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at significant risk as well

Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE OSTEOPOROSIS?
Specialized tests called bone mineral density (BMD) study can measure bone density in various sites of the body. A BMD test can:

• Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
• Predict chances of fracturing on the future
• Determine rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if a DXA BMD test is conducted at intervals of one year or more

PREVENTION:
There are five steps, which together can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. They are:

• A balance diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
• Weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises
• A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake
• Talking to one’s healthcare professional about bone and health
• Bone density testing and medication when appropriate

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are several medications to prevent and treat osteoporosis. MAKE SURE YOU SPEAK TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT A BONE DENSITY STUDY AND IF YOU ARE A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR TREATMENT.

FALL PREVENTION:
Preventing falls is important at any age, but it is especially important for those who have osteoporosis because their bones are more fragile and easily broken.

In many cases, a fall can be precipitated by medications such as sedatives, muscle relaxants, and blood pressure drugs that can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of balance. When two or more medication are used in combination, these side effects may be aggravated. Falls also result from diminished vision, hearing, muscle strength, coordination, and reflexes and from diseases that affect balance.

This safety checklist can help you eliminate many common household hazards:

Floors. Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Minimize clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Keep furniture in its accustomed place.

Bathrooms. Install grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower.

Lighting. Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Install a night light in your bathroom. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.

Kitchen. Install non-skid rubber mats near sink and stove. Clean up spills immediately.

Stairs. Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure.

Other precautions. Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. Keep your intake of alcoholic beverages to a minimum. Ask your doctor whether any of your medications might cause you to fall.

Photo: Pixabay.

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