Osteoporosis is a condition many women deal with as they age, and it can leave you wondering: how does a simple fall result in a trip to the hospital?
But the good news is, your Moreland OB-GYN doctor has options to help you manage osteoporosis. In this article, we walk through a number of key facts about osteoporosis, including:
- What is osteoporosis
- Signs and symptoms of osteoporosis
- Osteoporosis tests and treatments
- Exercises and exercises to avoid
- And more
Keeping reading to get all of the information and guidelines you need to help prevent and successfully manage osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
The word osteoporosis means “porous bone,” a suitable description for a disease that causes the bone to deteriorate.
Your bone tissue constantly reabsorbs old cells and grow new tissue to maintain strength and density throughout your life. Your body does this very well in your youth and into your 20s, when many people enjoy peak bone mass. However, after menopause in women and age 65 in men, this process slows down and, in some cases, bone loss outpaces bone growth, causing the bones to become weak and brittle. This condition is known as osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease because it can cause dangerous bone fractures.
Globally, it is estimated that one in three women aged 50 or older are at risk for osteoporosis fractures. The most common osteoporotic fractures are fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist.
These kinds of fractures can lead to:
- Severe back pain.
- Humped back.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
More than 25 million Americans have osteoporosis. But why?
While bone loss is a natural process that can’t be prevented entirely, there are several risk factors for osteoporosis that explain why some people are more likely to have it than others.
- Your sex. While both men and women can develop osteoporosis, women are at higher risk.
- Age. Your risk for bone loss increases with age. Because women generally live longer than men, they have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis in their lifetime.
- Your race. Osteoporosis is most common in caucasian and Asian patients.
- Family history. Osteoporosis does have a genetic component.
- Body size. People with smaller body frames have less bone mass to rely on as they age and are more prone to osteoporosis. This is another reason it is more common among women.
- Low sex hormones. Reduced levels of estrogen in aging women contribute to bone density loss.
- High hormone levels. An overactive thyroid, or parathyroid, and adrenal glands have been associated with osteoporosis.
- Certain medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications interferes with bone growth.
- Poor nutrition. Eating disorders and malnutrition weakens bones and increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Lack of calcium. A lifetime of low calcium intake is a major factor in osteoporosis.
- Gastrointestinal surgery. Surgeries that shrink your stomach or remove part of the intestine reduce your body’s ability to absorb bone-strengthening nutrients like calcium.
- Tobacco use. Tobacco has been shown to contribute to bone weakness.
- Excessive drinking. More than two alcoholic beverages a day can increase your risk of osteoporosis.
- A sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is excellent for bone health and a lack of physical activity creates a higher risk for bone density loss.
- Certain medical conditions. Some medical conditions come with a higher risk of bone issues, such as cancer, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney or liver disease, lupus, multiple myeloma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
While you can’t change biological risk factors, you can follow healthy habits to promote good bone regrowth. If you have any medical conditions or use medications or treatments that may increase your risk for osteoporosis, speak with your doctor about your concerns.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
For something so debilitating, osteoporosis is unfortunately very stealthy. Typically, there are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. You could be living with osteoporosis for many years without realizing it and only learn you have it in the later stages of the disease when it has already weakened your bones.
When osteoporosis does make itself known, it may be through symptoms such as:
- Loss of height over time.
- A stooped posture or humped back.
- Back pain from fractured or collapsed vertebrae.
- A bone fracture that occurs very easily.
Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, and Osteopenia… What’s the Difference?
Osteoporosis vs. Osteoarthritis
It is easy to confuse osteoarthritis for osteoporosis because they sound similar, but these are two very different conditions.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. It is caused by overuse of a joint that wears away the cartilage supporting that joint, allowing the bones to rub together painfully and is not related to osteoporosis.
What is Osteopenia?
Osteopenia is considered the “midpoint” between healthy bone density and osteoporosis; which is characterized by weak bones. Osteopenia is not as severe as in osteoporosis. You are not as likely to break a bone because of osteopenia.
Osteopenia can be a precursor to osteoporosis, but it is not a sure sign that bone deterioration will progress further. A well-rounded diet, adequate weight bearing exercise, and some medications can keep further bone weakness from occurring.
When to See a Doctor
Women do not always realize they have the condition until it is already causing them problems. However, you should have a preemptive discussion with your physician if you have any significant risk factors or if you:
- Experienced early menopause.
- Took corticosteroids for several months.
- Have parents who suffered hip fractures.
While osteoporosis often doesn’t like to announce itself in the early stages, you can monitor your bones' health with a bone density test. This test reveals if you have bone loss. It is an easy, painless test which takes about 15 minutes to perform.
X-rays are used for the bone density test. The two sites we typically take an image of is the spine and hips. These two sites give us a representation of the grams of calcium and other minerals that are in a square centimeter of bone tissue. The higher the mineral content, the better the bone density and the less likely you are to develop bone loss in the near future.
Bone Density Test Near Me
If you are a postmenopausal woman aged 50 or older or have broken a bone recently, talk to your Wisconsin healthcare provider about having a bone density test.
How to Reverse Osteoporosis
Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoporosis, but you can slow its progression and avoid serious injuries.
If you have osteopenia, talk to your Moreland OB-GYN doctor about an appropriate health regimen to promote better bone density.
If you already have osteoporosis, take measures to prevent dangerous fractures.
What to Eat and Drink if You Have Osteoporosis
Calcium is the most important nutrient for bone health. It is recommended that women over 50 get 1,200 mg of calcium each day. To get your daily dose and fight osteoporosis, add these calcium-rich foods to your diet:
- Canned salmon
- Collard greens
- Whey protein
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified breads
- Fortified soy milk
- Fortified orange juice
Eating well isn’t enough to prevent bone loss. Certain exercises help too.
The best types of exercise for preventing and managing osteoporosis are weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Some ideal weight bearing exercises for women include:
- Walking on a treadmill or outside.
- Using a stair-step machine.
- Lifting weights.
- Using exercise bands.
Before you begin a new exercise program always consult a physician and get medical clearance before you begin.
Exercises to Avoid with Osteoporosis
Of course, when your bones are weak, you have to be careful during physical activities. Before you begin a new exercise program always consult a physician and get medical clearance before you begin. Avoid high-impact exercises and activities that require bending and twisting, such as:
- Russian twists.
- Lumbar rolls.
- Some yoga poses.
Preventive Measures to Avoid Falling With Osteoporosis
The ISCD, or International Society for Clinical Densitometry, shares multifactorial interventions such as individual risk assessments of current exercise programs or day-to-day activities that may need modifications.
- Always have adequate lighting especially at night
- Remove rugs in high traffic areas
- Keep pets from getting under foot.
- Have appropriate correction of visual impairment to improve mobility.
- Use walking aids when necessary.
- Add grab bars in bathrooms.
- Wear appropriate shoes with a back so they don’t slide off.
What to Look for In an Osteoporosis Doctor
While doctors do not specialize in osteoporosis, many doctors’ training includes diagnosis and treatment of the condition. If you suspect you have osteoporosis, you can talk to a Gynecologist.
When you call your provider of choice, ask about their experience and expertise in osteoporosis and if they offer bone density testing.
At Moreland OB-GYN our technicians are certified by the ISCD International Society for Clinical Densitometry. Our dedicated providers help women learn more about their health in every stage of life.