Osteoporosis is a disease marked by reducing bone mass, density, and quality. This makes bones weak and brittle. If left unchecked, it can lead to broken bones . Breaks of special concern are of the hip , spine , and wrist . But, they can happen anywhere.
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The loss of bone faster than it is formed causes osteoporosis. Bone loss happens faster after age 30. There are many factors over a lifetime that can lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is more common in:
- Older adults
- White, Asian, or Hispanic people
It’s more likely to happen if full bone mass was not reached during your bone-building years.
Your chances are also higher for:
- Low body weight
- Alcohol use disorder
- A history of falls
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Being in menopause
- Certain health conditions such as:
- Certain medicines, such as long term use of blood thinners or stomach acid reducers
- Low estrogen levels in women or low testosterone levels in men
- Certain diets that can result in a lack of calcium or vitamin D
- Too little sunlight—sun on the skin is a main source of vitamin D
- Certain cancers such as lymphoma and multiple myeloma
In most cases, people with osteoporosis don’t know they have it until a bone breaks. If symptoms appear, they may cause:
- Severe back pain
- Loss of height with stooped posture—kyphosis
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The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also have:
Care mainly involves lifestyle changes and medicines. The goal is to lower the chance of breaks and slow bone loss.
Lower your intake of alcohol. Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is in:
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Canned fish with bones
- Products with calcium added
Don't smoke. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways you can successfully quit .
Exercise improves bone health. It also increases muscle strength and balance. Weight-bearing and strength-training offer the best benefits for your bones. Balance training may help lower the chances of falls and breaks.
People who do not eat enough calcium and vitamin D from foods may need supplements. Don’t take them without talking to your doctor first.
Falls can raise the chance of breaks in someone with osteoporosis. Here are ways to lower your chances of falls:
- Floors—Remove all loose wires, cords, and throw rugs. Reduce clutter. Make sure rugs are anchored and smooth. Don’t move furniture around.
- Bathrooms—Put grab bars and non-skid tape in the tub or shower.
- Lighting—Make sure halls, stairways, and entrances are well lit. Put a night light in your bathroom. Turn lights on if you get up in the middle of the night.
- Kitchen—Put non-skid rubber mats near the sink and stove. Clean spills right away.
- Stairs—Make sure treads, rails, and rugs are secure.
- Other precautions—Wear sturdy, rubber-soled shoes. Ask your doctor whether any of your medicines might cause you to fall.
Certain medicines can help prevent bone loss, increase bone density, and lower your risk of breaks. These may include:
- Bisphosphonates to prevent the loss of bone
- Parathyroid hormone therapy to stimulate bone growth
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators to prevent bone loss, improve density, and lower the risk of breaks
Building strong bones throughout your early years is the best defense. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D , and regular exercise can keep bones strong throughout life.
Other ways you can lower your chances:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- Perform weight-bearing exercises.
- Live a healthy lifestyle—avoid smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation (2 drinks or less a day for men, 1 drink or less a day for women).
- If you have gone through menopause and are at high risk for broken bones, medicines may be advised to prevent osteoporosis.
- EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD
- Reviewed: 06/2018
- Updated: 06/22/2018
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