Osteoporosis

Overview

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes the bones to become weak and fragile, making it easier for them to break. As the body ages, it begins to lose bone mass, especially around the time of menopause in women. Less bone mass makes the body more susceptible to osteoporosis, which can lead to increased risk of bone fracture. Osteoporosis is most common in older women, but it can affect anyone. There are medications that can help to slow bone loss and in some cases increase bone density. The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to get enough calcium and stay physically active to build strong, healthy bones.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The primary symptom of osteoporosis is bones that are easily breakable. Because of this, many people do not realize they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. The hips, wrists, and spine are the bones most commonly affected. Doctors diagnose osteoporosis with a bone density test, which measures the strength (density) of the bones with X-rays. The test is painless and does not require any preparation.

Causes

Osteoporosis is caused by inadequate calcium intake and a lack of physical activity, resulting in weak bones. Calcium is a mineral that helps to build strong bones, teeth, and other organs. The only way to get calcium is through diet. Vitamin D helps to facilitate the absorption of calcium in the body, so not getting enough vitamin D could also contribute to osteoporosis.

Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is most common in older people. Older white and Asian women are particularly prone to the disease. Other risk factors include a family history of osteoporosis, small stature, a calcium-poor diet, and not being physically active. Reductions in estrogen and testosterone due to cancer treatments or reduction of estrogen due to menopause can raise the risk of osteoporosis. Other health problems associated with osteoporosis include thyroid diseases and other problems with overactive glands. Long-term use of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, and other medications have been known to contribute to osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol and tobacco use have also been linked to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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