News from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. This is usually a result of a hormonal change or loss of calcium or vitamin D. Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis with another 44 million challenged with low bone density, which puts them at risk.
Often called the silent disease because you cannot feel your bones getting weaker, an osteoporosis diagnosis often occurs after a bone has been broken. Bone is living tissue that is constantly breaking down and replacing itself. Osteoporosis occurs when the new bone can’t keep up with the loss of the old bone.
The disease is responsible for over two million broken bones a year although over 80% of older adults never get a test for osteoporosis. Every year of the nearly 300,000 U.S. hip fracture patients, one quarter end up in a nursing home and half never recover previous function. One in two women and approximately one in four men break a bone in his or her lifetime as a result of osteoporosis.
During the early stages of bone loss, you are not likely to experience symptoms. As the weakening of your bones progresses, you may start to see signs of osteoporosis. This includes back pain often caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra, a bone that breaks easily, a stooped posture, and a loss of height over time.
A bone-density test may be recommended by your physician. This test measures the strength of your bones via an X-ray. It’s optimal to get a baseline bone-density test so serious bone loss can be evaluated over time.
How susceptible you are to osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you developed as a child. Peak bone mass can be inherited or can vary by ethnicity. The greater your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in storage” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis.
Spine and hip fractures are the most serious complications of osteoporosis. Learning falls prevention tips is one of the best ways to avoid a fracture, which can result in disability or an increased risk of death within a year of the injury. Spinal fractures can sometimes occur even if you haven’t fallen. Your vertebrae can weaken to the point of collapse resulting in serious back pain, a hunched posture and even a loss of height.
Treatment focuses on slowing or preventing the onset of osteoporosis, maintaining healthy bone mass, and preventing fractures. While there are a variety of medication and treatment options, the best plan of action is to be thoughtful of your lifestyle.
The national Osteoporosis Foundation recommends five steps to keep bones healthy and improve osteoporosis. First, get the calcium and vitamin D you need. Second, do daily strength building and weight building exercises. Third, don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol. Fourth, speak to your physician about getting a baseline bone density test. And finally, take osteoporosis medication if and when the time is right.
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