Osteoporosis Information and Treatment

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is characterized by low bone mass and architectural changes that make bones more fragile. This leads to a dramatic increase in the risk of fractures involving the spine, hip, and wrist. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that more than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis of the hip.

Who is at risk for developing osteoporosis?

Risk factors for osteoporosis include: Asian or Caucasian race, advanced age, smoking, low body weight, estrogen deficiency, low calcium intake, alcoholism, and inadequate physical activity. African American and Latin American women have an intermediate risk.

What can be done to prevent osteoporosis?

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to BUILD BONE MASS. Your body starts to build bone mass in early childhood and this process continues into your mid-30’s. The essential ingredients to building bone mass are a healthy lifestyle, calcium, and exercise. Your bone mass peaks in your mid-30’s. After that your bone mass declines every year by about 0.5%. When women go through menopause the amount of bone mass lost each year increases dramatically (2-5% per year), and this rapid loss of bone mass usually lasts for about 5 years.

What is an adequate amount of calcium?

Children need at least 800-1,200 mg/day of elemental calcium for healthy bones. Adolescents need 1,200-1,500 mg/day, and adults need 1,000 mg/day. Once women go through menopause, their requirements for calcium go up. Women on hormone replacement therapy need 1,200 mg/day, and women not on hormones need 1,500 mg/day. The best sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. If you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, add a calcium supplement. Vitamin D is important to ensure you are absorbing calcium from your diet, and guidelines for vitamin D intake have recently been revised to recommend 1000-2000 IU daily intake for people age 9-70 years.

What type of exercise is best?

The best type of exercise to build bone mass and prevent the development of osteoporosis is weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, aerobics, and lifting weights.

How is osteoporosis detected?

The best screening test currently available is a bone density scan. The goal of screening is to detect osteoporosis before the development of fractures, loss of height, or skeletal deformities. This test is easy to perform and has minimal radiation exposure. The most commonly studied areas are the spine and hip. This test measures bone density and compares your bone density to the peak bone mass of a young adult. If the bone density is less than 1 standard deviation below that of a young adult, it is described as osteopenia. If the bone density is less than 2.5 standard deviations below it is described as osteoporosis.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of osteoporosis includes calcium supplementation, exercise, and hormone replacement if postmenopausal. In addition, there are several drugs available that also build bone mass such as calcitonin and a group of drugs called bisphosphonates.