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Osteoporosis: What is it, and How to Manage It

Updated on February 10, 2016
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Dr. Jan Paul Szatkowski is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon dedicated to not only treating injuries, but preventing them as well.

Osteoporosis is a silent killer affected millions of people worldwide each year.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis thins and weakens

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Osteoporosis is a silent disease.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease. | Source

Osteoporosis is a disease, most common in older people, where the bones become thinner and brittle. New bone tissue is replaced at a slower rate, making it more prone to fractures.

Who is susceptible to osteoporosis?

All genders and races are at risk, but it is most common in Asian and Caucasian females. Causes and risk factors include, reduced estrogen levels in post-menopausal women, lower testosterone levels in men, other hormonal imbalances, lack of calcium, medication side effects, and certain treatments like chemo therapy.

The cumulative toll of bad habits like smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, or a sedentary lifestyle is also major contributors to developing osteoporosis. There is evidence that the phosphoric acid in sodas may also contribute to bone loss, though studies so far have been inconclusive.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

There are few symptoms of osteoporosis, in the early stages, making it an easily overlooked disease. At later stages, symptoms include loss of height, stooped posture, back and hip pain, or easily fractured bones.

Is there a cure for osteoporosis?

There is no cure for osteoporosis, but it can be managed. Those with this disease can take positive steps to help lead full and active lives. Bone density can never be completely regained, though some experimental treatments do look promising. However, the rate of bone loss can be mitigated or even halted.

For patients with advanced stage osteoporosis, a greater emphasis on fall prevention may be needed. Standard steps include removing hazards such as loose rugs, electrical cords across a walkway, and keeping the floor clutter free.

What you wear also counts, and not just for fashion’s sake. Avoid wearing shoes with slippery soles or tall heels, and make sure your clothes don’t hinder your movement in a way that makes it hard to stand or keep your balance.

What are some of the ways to manage osteoporosis?

Early detection and preventative measures is the ideal first step, in managing osteoporosis. A healthy lifestyle and bone density tests can prevent, or at least catch the disease, before it becomes a major health issue. If a person is diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are numerous avenues available for them to keep it under control.

Treatment can be prescription medicine, exercise, or a mixture of both. Common prescription medicines include Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Forteo, and Reclast. Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are also commonly given. As with many prescriptions, these drugs can have side effects – some of them severe. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for details. Hormone-related therapies, like estrogen or testosterone replacement, can also be used to treat osteoporosis.

A change in diet and lifestyle is another way to fight bone loss. These include not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and being more physically active. Many foods, such an orange juice, margarine, and yogurt, have calcium fortified versions, which are an easy way to supplement an already healthy diet.

Are there ways to prevent osteoporosis?

Exercise is one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to combat osteoporosis. Weight training has been shown to be especially effective. Not only can it prevent bone loss from occurring, it can even, in some cases, cause new bone growth. One thing to keep in mind is that weight training isn’t just for bodybuilders and athletes. Hitting the gym doesn’t mean trying to become the next Schwarzenegger. Using just a few pounds of resistance can do the job.

Standard aerobic exercise, like walking, yoga, or swimming, is also good. The best way to stay active, is to simply be active. Too many seniors, especially those with conditions, like osteoporosis, that limit mobility, may adopt an inactive lifestyle for fear of injury or the belief that they are no longer capable of doing enough exercise for it to be beneficial.

Patients, with osteoporosis, can still do many of the same things they have always done. There are other options than standard exercise. Taking the stairs, instead of the elevator, or parking further away than you have to when running errands also works.

If you need to go somewhere that is within walking distance, walk. Small steps like this can work wonders. Organizations like a city’s Department of Leisure Services may offer clubs or organize group activities for seniors, which can turn a dull daily exercise routine into a fun social event. Always consult a physician before starting any exercise program, and ask if increasing physical activity could pose a risk.


Please watch the video below from the NIH Senior Health website for more information regarding coping with Osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Quiz

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