What You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

Like most of us, I want to maintain control of my life as much as possible. The older I become, the more I realize that there are many things over which I do not have control. Thankfully, I still have a number of issues I CAN control to help me make my life the best it can be. Osteoporosis is one condition that I have successfully avoided, so far, with exercise, diet and medication.

Osteoporosis (OP) can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Not only can it cause pain, broken bones and disfigurement, it can also shorten your life. Now that I have your attention, I shall tell you the good news about OP.   With early diagnosis and treatment, it can often be controlled, allowing a person to live a healthy, comfortable life.

What is osteoporosis? OP is the most common form of bone disease. During our early years, our bones are continually growing and our bone mass increasing. Usually in a person’s early 20’s he/she begins to lose bone mass faster than it is created. Consequently, as we age, our bones tend to become more porous and may become weak and brittle.  A fall or even mild stresses such as bending, coughing or rolling over in bed can cause a fracture.  I have often had a resident wake in the morning with back pain which is followed by a diagnosis of compression fracture of the spine. The hip, the wrist and the spine are the most common sites for fractures caused by OP.

What are the risk factors? OP affects men and woman of all races, but is most prevalent among white and Asian women who are post-menopausal. As we age, the risk of OP increases. Having a family history of OP along with a history that includes hip fractures puts a person at a greater risk for this disease. Individuals with smaller frames are also at greater risk for OP, because they have less bone mass upon which to draw as they age.

Other factors that may play a part in this disease include: hormone imbalances and certain medications; dietary factors such as low calcium intake, eating disorders, and gastrointestinal surgery; sedentary lifestyle, excessive use of alcohol and tobacco.

What is the treatment for OP? We are fortunate to have treatment for this potentially debilitating disease. If you have any of the above mentioned risk factors, it is important to talk to your doctor about the diagnosis and the management of OP. Your doctor will be able to make the diagnosis by reviewing your history and by giving you a bone density test. This test is a painless, low level X-ray scan, which can quickly determine the condition of your bones. If necessary, your doctor will outline a treatment plan for you to control your bone loss and to increase your bone density.

People of all ages can protect their bones and prevent OP by exercising and eating a healthy diet. It is essential that you get the proper amounts of calcium along with vitamin D, which helps your body to absorb the calcium. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, salmon, sardines, soy products, calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. If necessary, you doctor can prescribe additional calcium and vitamin D to ensure you are getting the therapeutic amounts.

In conclusion, I feel we need to take responsibility for all areas of our lives including mental, physical, social and spiritual well- being.  We need to lead our lives and not let our lives lead us.

Living life to the best of our abilities and taking good care of ourselves and other people will help to make the world a better place for everyone.