Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle to the point that even mild stressors, such as coughing or bending over, can cause a bone fracture. Though osteoporosis generally doesn’t cause any symptoms at first, as the condition worsens you will experience symptoms such as back pain from fractures or collapsed vertebra, a stooped posture, frequent bone fractures, and loss of height over time.
After you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, a bone density test is performed to assess the risk of your bones breaking in the next ten years. Depending on how high the risk is, your treatment might include medications or might just be limited to lifestyle changes.
The most commonly prescribed medications for men and women who are at an increased risk for bone fracture are called bisphosphonates. This class of drugs includes medications such as Fosamax (alendronate), Actonel (risedronate), Boniva (ibandronate), and Reclast (zoledronic acid). These medications can be taken orally or intravenously.
If for some reason you are unable to take the medications that are normally prescribed for osteoporosis, your doctor might suggest Prolia (denosumab) or Forteo (teriparatide) instead. These medications are administered via injections into your skin.
Sometimes, osteoporosis can result from the hormonal changes that occur as you get older. In women, this could be because of a decline in estrogen levels after menopause, and for older men, it could be due to a decline in testosterone levels. Sometimes hormonal supplements can help to maintain bone density and prevent the symptoms of osteoporosis from occurring.
Besides taking medications, there are other things you can do to decrease your risk of broken bones with osteoporosis. For example, smoking cessation can decrease the rate of bone loss and make experiencing a fracture less likely in the future. Additionally, you should avoid excessively consuming alcohol, as more than two drinks per day can decrease your bone formation as well as increase your risk of falling. Finally, if you have osteoporosis, try to prevent falling as much as possible by wearing low-heeled shoes with non-slip soles, checking your house for things that you could trip on, keeping your rooms brightly lit, and making sure you are able to get in out of your bed and shower easily.
There are three things that will ensure your bones stay healthy throughout your life. They are:
- Calcium: If you are between the ages of 18 and 50, you should be getting at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day. As you get older, this number will increase to more than 1,200 mg. You can get calcium from dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon, soy products, and calcium fortified products such as cereal and orange juice.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important because it helps your body absorb calcium more effectively. You can get vitamin D from sunlight or from supplements if you live in high altitudes or are at an increased risk for skin cancer.
- Exercise: Exercising regularly will help your bones to be stronger and prevent bone loss from occurring.