Osteoporosis is a condition which causes the bones to become weak and at higher risk for  fracture (break). It is estimated that about 10 million Americans already have osteoporosis, with nearly 34 million at risk.

Research suggests that about half of all women older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis at some point in their life. While this occurs more frequently in women, it is estimated that up to one in four men break a bone. Fracturing a bone can lead to significant adverse consequences, especially when you’re older.

Commonly, osteoporosis related fractures occur in the hip, spine and wrist, which can lead to severe chronic pain, loss of height, or affect posture, causing you to become stooped or hunched.

Osteoporosis or osteoporosis-related fractures can ultimately limit mobility which can lead to limiting things you enjoy or causing you to feel isolated or depressed. It has been shown that nearly 20% of seniors who break a hip die within one year from problems related to the broken bone itself or surgery to repair it. While many others who survive need long-term nursing home care.

Screening for Osteoporosis

A bone density test is the only test that can diagnose osteoporosis. This test estimates the density  (or strength) of your bones. It also estimates your chance of breaking a bone. Various organizations recommend a bone density test of both the hip and spine by a central DEXA machine to diagnose osteoporosis. DEXA stands for dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Other radiographic studies, such as peripheral DXA, X-Ray, MRI or ultrasound cannot definitively diagnose osteoporosis, nor estimate a risk for fracture at this time.

Risk Factors:

Menopause (women)
Personal history of broken bones as an adult
Family history of broken bones and osteoporosis
Tobacco use   
Excessive alcohol use
Dietary calcium and vitamin D
Lack of exercise

History of an eating disorder (i.e. anorexia nervosa)
Irregular menstrual periods
Low testosterone levels (men)
Certain medications
Various medical conditions

Treatment for Osteoporosis.

Treatment decisions for osteoporosis are determined after reviewing your medical history (including all risk factors), physical examination, bone density test and any other tests related to your bone health. Most people with osteoporosis need to take medication to reduce the risk of fracture and slow the progression of the bone loss. It may also be beneficial to have a consultation with a physical therapist to teach safe exercises to improve your strength, balance and posture. All treatments whether medication or physical therapies are directed to prevent falls and broken bones.

Aside from pharmaceutical medications, it is imperative to maintain proper lifestyle and dietary habits to enhance bone health. It is important to get the proper amounts of both calcium and vitamin D in your diet. For adults 50 years old or older, it is recommended to get 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day. However, many experts recommend 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day, with a maximum of no more than 4,000 IU per day. Eating fruits and vegetables is also good for bone health, while eating poorly, smoking, drinking too much alcohol or not exercising can cause bone loss and osteoporosis. There are many factors to consider in choosing the right osteoporosis medicine. These will be discussed and assessed at your visit.