“Osteoporosis” means porous bones. Bones are living, growing tissues, and throughout our lifetime, our bones constantly change, with old bone being reabsorbed and new bone added. Up to age 30, new bone is being formed faster than old bone is reabsorbed so our bones are larger, stronger and more dense. As we age, we begin to lose more bone than we add, leading to thinner, weaker bones.
Signs of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is sometimes called a silent disease because bone loss happens without symptoms. By the time people notice lost height, a stooped posture or a pronounced bump at the base of the neck, they have already lost significant bone mass. Some learn they have osteoporosis only when they have a fracture. With severe osteoporosis, bones are so weak that a minor bump can cause a fractured hip or a collapsed vertebra.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
- Gender and age (older women are at higher risk)
- Body size (small and thin)
- Ethnicity (Caucasian and Asian)
- Family history
- Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies
- Lifestyle habits including low exercise levels, smoking, and drinking
- Certain medications
Osteoporosis is typically diagnosed through a bone density study, most commonly a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry or DEXA study, a painless test that can measure the strength of your bones. Women are encouraged to have a bone density study in their late 40s (before menopause), to serve as a baseline comparison for bone density tests later in life.
Osteoporosis treatment includes proper nutrition, which may include supplements, exercise, safety training to prevent falls, and in some cases, medication to slow or stop bone loss and increase bone density.