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Osteoporosis, a potentially debilitating disease that leads to weakening bones, (Read about "Skeletal System") affects over 25 million people in the U.S. It's also a major cause of bone fractures in seniors and in post-menopausal women. (Read about "Accidental Falls" "Hip Fractures") The Society of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology (SCVIR) says that osteoporosis causes 700,000 fractures of the vertebrae each year. (Read about "The Spine") An exaggerated curve in the back, called kyphosis, is a common problem. (Read about "Curvature of the Spine")
The National Osteoporosis Foundation says two things help make someone more susceptible to osteoporosis:
Gender plays a role too. Women, who tend to have smaller bones than men, are usually more at risk of osteoporosis. But that doesn't mean men can't develop this problem too. Therefore, it's a good idea for everyone to learn about osteoporosis - how you can try to prevent it and how you can treat it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are many risk factors for osteoporosis that we can't change. Among the things that can put someone at a higher risk are:
But some things we can control. One is the amount of exercise we get. (Read about "Menopause and Exercise") According to the International Association of Fitness Professionals, weight-bearing exercise, such as walking (Read about "Walking for Health") or weight training, can help develop stronger bones. Although it's important to avoid over-stressing the bones, this type of exercise can help develop bone strength especially during the teens and early twenties. In addition, many experts think that even after menopause, a program of moderate exercise can help slow bone loss, although it's always important to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you already have osteoporosis.
Diet is one of the other things we can control. Calcium and vitamin D (Read about "Calcium" "Vitamins & Minerals") are the key nutrients for helping to build strong bones. (Read about "Calcium and Osteoporosis") For those over the age of one, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends, depending on your age, sex and other health issues, between 700 and 1300 milligrams per day of calcium. You should discuss with your healthcare provider what your needs are. For those over the age of one, IOM also says the upper intake level for calcium is between 2000 and 3000 milligrams per day. Once again, it depends on your age and other health factors how much calcium you should be getting. Upper intake levels represent the upper safe boundary and should not be misunderstood as amounts people need or should strive to consume, according to IOM.
Dairy products are a leading source of calcium, but if you don't tolerate dairy products, or if you simply don't get enough calcium in your normal diet, ask a doctor or registered dietitian about supplements and/or lactose-free products. If you do take supplements, the American Medical Association suggests that calcium supplements be taken in divided doses of no more than 500 to 600 mg at a time, for best absorption.
Vitamin D is also important. For those over the age of one, IOM recommends, depending on your age, sex and other health issues, between 600 and 800 international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day to maintain health. Once again, you should discuss with your healthcare provider what your needs are. For those over the age of one, IOM also says the upper intake level for vitamin D is between 2500 and 4000 IUs per day, depending on your age and other health factors. A doctor may decide someone needs to take supplements in order to get enough of this vitamin, particularly if the person spends a large amount of time indoors and away from sunlight, which helps the body produce vitamin D.
Although routine x-rays (Read about "X-rays") can't detect osteoporosis until it's in an advanced stage, there are several other kinds of devices that can measure bone density before bone lose progresses to an advanced stage. If you suspect you're at risk of osteoporosis, ask your doctor about getting tested.
There are different ways to measure bone density. According to the North American Spine Society, a bone density scan is a non-invasive painless test that measures bone mass. A scan can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs, predict your chances of fracturing in the future, determine your rate of bone loss and monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted annually. FDA says the commonly used DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) scan exposes you to far less radiation than a chest X-ray. (Read about "DEXA Scan - Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry/Densitometry") During this type of exam, you lie fully clothed on a padded table while the machine scans one or more areas of bone (generally the lower spine or hip). In addition to X-ray-based bone densitometers, FDA says ultrasound scanning machines can also be used. (Read about "Ultrasound Imaging") Ultrasound machines for testing osteoporosis are smaller than traditional X-ray-based systems. They measure bone mineral density in different regions of the body, such as the heel of the foot.
If osteoporosis is present, the National Osteoporosis Foundation says there are several medical treatments available as options. For example, hormone replacement therapy replaces the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone that a menopausal woman's body no longer makes in effective quantities. There are also medications and hormonal-like drugs being used to treat osteoporosis. Many women, however, are concerned about potential risks associated with hormone use. If you're concerned about your risk of osteoporosis, or if you already have been diagnosed with this disease, a qualified doctor can advise you about hormonal as well as non-hormonal options, to help keep your bones in good shape for life. (Read about "Osteoporosis")
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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