What is Osteoporosis?

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

The following article is brought to you by our January sponsor, Reclast.

Osteoporosis is a disease that breaks down the tissue of your bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, typically occur in the hip, spine, and wrist.

The condition is more common than you think – it affects an estimated 8 million women in the U.S. and one in two women over the age of fifty will experience a broken bone due to osteoporosis in her remaining lifetime. Here’s another eye-opener: Fractures related to osteoporosis are more common in women than heart attacks, breast cancer, and strokes combined.

Any bone can be affected, but of special concern are fractures of the hip and spine. A hip fracture almost always requires hospitalization and major surgery. It can impair a person’s ability to walk unassisted and may cause prolonged or permanent disability or even death. Spinal or vertebral fractures also have serious consequences, including loss of height, severe back pain, and deformity

Since women can’t feel their bones getting weaker, many don’t know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. A person with osteoporosis can fracture a bone from a minor fall, or in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze or even spontaneously.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

  • Being female
  • Older age
  • Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
  • Being small and thin
  • Certain race/ethnicities such as Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino although African Americans are also at risk
  • History of broken bones

The good news is that it is never too late, or too early, to start taking care of your bones.

Because women experience significant bone loss after menopause, it is important for you to get to know your bones inside and out. One way to do that is by having a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test. The test is safe, painless and quick and can help your doctor assess your risk for future bone fractures, and what you can do about it.

While there are some osteoporosis risk factors that you cannot control (such as family history, age, and gender), concentrating on the things you can control, like exercise, can have an impact on making bones stronger.

Together, the following five steps can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis:

  • Nutrition: Get the daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise: Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise
  • Lifestyle: Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
  • Medical Advice: Talk to your healthcare provider about your bone health and appropriate treatment options that may be right for you.

In the coming months, Red Hot Mamas will provide you with insight on each of the bone health steps outlined above. Stay tuned for our next issue to learn how nutrition plays a vital role in keeping your bones strong. In the meantime, visit www.strongtothebone.com to take a short osteoporosis risk assessment and to learn about local osteoporosis education events in your area.