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How to Understand, Prevent, And Live With Osteoporosis

Updated on May 9, 2011

Osteoporosis is basically a loss of bone. Throughout our lives we are always in the process of both losing old bone and producing new bone. Up until the age of about thirty-five for woman and slightly later for men, the body produces more bone material that it loses. At this point the production and loss tends to be about the same. We only produce what we lose.

When we begin to lose more bone than we actually are producing, osteoporosis occurs. The greater the loss of bone mass, the more severe the osteoporosis becomes. Our bones become more fragile, and more prone to fracture. Severe osteoporosis is alarming as a simple bump, that would normally not even cause a grimace, can break a bone.

Osteoporosis is of more concern to women for several reasons. Women's bones are usually smaller to begin with so there is less to lose. Women begin to lose bone at an earlier age, which is another reason. As women enter menopause, the production of the estrogen hormone, which is important for preventing bone loss, slows and then virtually stops. If you begin menopause before the age of about forty-five, your risk for bone loss increases.

There are other factors that can increase your risk of osteoporosis, such as being small and thin, being Asian, Caucasian, fair-skinned, or coming from a family with a history of the condition. If you have breast fed a child, have never had a child, or have had your ovaries removed, your risk also increases.

Your lifestyle, whether you are male or female, may also increase your risk of osteoporosis. Lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption, and poor diet, especially one lacking sufficient calcium, can all increase your risk. Some medical conditions may make you more prone to the disease. These include hyperthyroidism, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, and anorexia. Make sure your doctor monitors your medications as some of these may increase your risk of bone loss. One concern is too high a dose of the thyroid hormone.

Osteoporosis approaches silently. Often the first sign is a broken bone, most usually a wrist or hip bone. You may notice other signs. You are shorter, your posture is becoming more stooped and your stomach is protruding. A bone-density test will easily and painlessly detect if you have osteoporosis. Menopause is a good time to have this simple test. If you have any concerns in this area, speak to your physician.

If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, measures must be taken to help replace what bone has been lost and prevent further loss. There are medications that will help.  Your doctor will discuss these with you.  He will then prescribe the one which is best for you, taking into consideration your general health as well as other medication you may already be taking. You must make sure to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, as prescribed, and take calcium supplements. Hormone replacement therapy may help some woman but may not be advisable for others who have had breast cancer or cancer of any reproductive organs. There are several other conditions which may indicate hormone replacement is not advisable for you. If you are a woman, discuss this with your doctor.

If you have osteoporosis there are several things that you can do to lessen the possibility of falling and breaking your bones. Take showers, rather than baths. If possible avoid medications that affect your balance. Always use handrails when possible. Wear comfortable secure walking shoes. Avoid bending at the waist. Squat instead. Avoid lifting heavy items. When your do lift, do so properly, bending the knees, lifting only straight up and holding the load close to your body. Don't use chairs to reach items. Avoid using stairs and ladders. Use elevators or escalators if possible. Keep your floors free of clutter, and your home well lit. Get help when you need it.

Protect yourself from bone loss. Eat a healthy diet, rich in calcium. Get lots of exercise. Stop smoking or don't start. Limit your caffeine and alcohol.  Have regular medical check-ups and discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have.


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