Osteoporosis is characterized by the thinning of bones, and can result in painful fractures. It is the underlying cause of 1.5 million fractures every year, affecting almost 44 million adults who are 50 years or older, and most of whom are women. Spinal compression fractures are the most common. Hip fractures are also common, and can cause lasting mobility problems.
Our bones undergo many changes over the years. They are made up of collagen, a protein that provides the basic framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that hardens the bone. With aging, bone matter is lost more quickly than it is replaced. This bone loss is a natural part of aging, but not everyone loses bone density to the extent where it leads to osteoporosis. It varies with a person’s physical health, past medical conditions and/or disabilities, heredity, ethnicity and gender. For instance, women’s bones are generally thinner than men’s, and bone density declines rapidly after menopause. Eighty percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women. Osteoporosis is also more common among caucasians and Asians. Some conditions, such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and hormonal disorders are also linked to bone loss.
Other causes of Osteoporosis include heavy smoking, excessive drinking, inactive lifestyle, and nutritional deficiencies. Anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat asthma and other conditions are also linked to bone loss. Anorexia nervosa can also be a cause.
Biophosphonate medications (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, or Reclast) are common prescriptions for the treatment of Osteoporosis. They can help reduce bone loss and even help some increase bone density.
Hormone replacement therapy is an option for osteoporosis in women who have menopausal symptoms, but it’s used less than other medications because of concerns about the risk of cancer, blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Evista is not a hormone but can provide similar bone-strengthening effects to estrogen without the possible cancer risks. Forteo, a synthetic parathyroid hormone, requires daily injections and actually builds new bone. Prolia is a lab-produced antibody that slows the breakdown of bone. Given as an injection twice a year, it is for postmenopausal women at high risk for fractures who can’t tolerate other osteoporosis drugs or who haven’t been helped by other drugs.
All the medicines mentioned may have side effects and must be discussed with, and referred by a doctor before being used.
Eating a calcium-rich diet can help protect bones no matter what your age. Milk is a rich source of calcium. Yogurt and cheese are alternatives. Fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring contain vitamin D that helps absorb calcium. Leafy green vegetables provide magnesium, which helps maintain good bone quality. Orange juice is also another good source of calcium. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, but exposure should be limited, as it can also lead to skin diseases.
Minimizing salty foods such as canned soups and processed meats is advised for the maximum benefits of calcium. Caffeine can also decrease your body’s absorption of calcium, but the effect is minimal unless you drink more than three cups of coffee a day.
Calcium supplements can also be consumed to make up for calcium deficiencies. The most commonly available supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate, which are equally beneficial. Talk to your doctor for dosage recommendation and schedule.
Exercise is a good way to maintain the health of your bones. Walking, jogging, and sports in which you move the full weight of your body are recommended at all ages. Using small weights in many different activities also helps bones to remain healthy.
Avoiding fractures is important to keep your bones healthy, whether you have bone loss or not. So prevent falls by following small precautions like anchoring rugs to the floor and avoiding slippery shoes.
This is not a complete description of Osteoporosis, it’s causes, treatment, or prevention. For more information, speak with your doctor. For health insurance support talk to Medicare customer support at 1-800-MEDICARE, or contact Medigap, Inc. at 1-855-214-4404.