Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more prone to breaking. Two million Canadians suffer from osteoporosis, and one in four women over age 50 has the disease. If osteoporosis isn’t prevented or treated, it can progress until a bone breaks. Fractures typically occur in the hip, spine and wrist.
Osteoporosis causes Risk factors include being female, a family history of osteoporosis, use of steroid medications and low estrogen levels, which occur during menopause. Smoking, excess caffeine, alcohol abuse, rheumatoid arthritis and a low calcium and vitamin D intake also boost the risk.
Osteoporosis symptoms Osteoporosis can strike at any age, and often bone loss occurs with no symptoms. When bones have weakened, however, a woman may experience back pain, poor posture, a fracture of the wrist, hip or vertebrae, or loss of height.
Osteoporosis diagnosis/tests Osteoporosis often goes unnoticed until you break a bone, which is unfortunate since an early diagnosis of the disease can help prevent fractures. Your doctor will do a physical examination; send you for X-rays to check your bones and a bone density test to see if you have low bone density. She may check your height to see if you’ve lost any inches and your posture to check for spine curvatures. She’ll want to know if you’re taking medications that contribute to bone loss, such as steriods.
Osteoporosis treatment A variety of drug treatments are available to reduce fractures and prevent further loss of bone density and osteoporosis in people at high risk for developing it. Bisphosphonates are the most commonly prescribed medication for osteoporosis. Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake will help lower bone loss and the risk of fracture. Adults need 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D per day. Over the age of 50, Osteoporosis Canada recommends 1,500 mg of calcium and at least 800 IU of vitamin D.
Osteoporosis prevention Since there is no cure for osteoporosis, prevention is very important. While some of us are predisposed to develop osteoporosis, staying active, getting enough calcium, particularly during childhood and adolescence, not smoking or drinking excessively may help guard against bone loss. Activities require strength and power, such as weight lifting, help increase bone mineral density.
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