The bones in your body are made up of living tissues that are constantly being broken down and replaced. Osteoporosis is what occurs when the creation of new bone doesn’t keep pace with the removal of old bone. This progressive disease makes all the bones in your body less dense, weaker, and more brittle. Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, white women and women of Asian descent, particularly those who are past menopause, have the highest risk.
While there aren’t typically any signs or symptoms during the early stages of bone loss, more advanced stages can cause you to become more stooped and lose some of your height. You may also experience chronic back pain caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra.
The aging process is the major contributing factor in the development of osteoporosis. Most people reach peak bone density in their early 20s. After that, bone mass is lost faster than it’s replaced. If your peak bone mass was relatively high in your early 20s, you’re less likely to develop osteoporosis as you age.
Factors that increase your risk of osteoporosis fall into two categories: those you can control, and those you can’t control. Some of the risk factors that you can’t control include:
Gender: Women are much more likely to get osteoporosis than men
Age: The older you are, the more your risk increases
Menopause: Having lower estrogen levels is the biggest risk factor for osteoporosis
Genetics: If one of your parents or siblings has osteoporosis, you’re more likely to develop it
Size: People with smaller frames have a greater risk of osteoporosis because they have less bone mass
Risk factors you can control include:
Diet: Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D increases your risk of osteoporosis
Drinking alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your risk of bone loss
Smoking: Research shows that tobacco use can make bones weaker
Lack of exercise: Inactive people are more likely to develop osteoporosis
If you are 65 or older, or if you’re younger than 65 but have one or more of the risk factors associated with osteoporosis, you should have a bone density test.
To screen for osteoporosis, the physicians at North Texas OB/GYN measure your bone density with a low-level X-ray machine that determines the ratio of minerals in your bone tissues. This comfortable, non-invasive test requires you to lie on a table as a scanner is passed over your body; this diagnostic tool is usually only used to check hip, spine, and wrist bones.
If you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor at North Texas OB/GYN probably will recommend lifestyle changes along with medication to help prevent fractures. Bisphosphonates are a type of medication that can prevent and treat postmenopausal osteoporosis, while calcitonin is a natural hormone that can help slow the rate of bone loss. Hormone replacement therapy can also prevent further bone loss. Your doctor will design a treatment approach that’s right for you.
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