What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that can get worse over time. It can cause you to lose bone mineral density and bone mass, which can cause your bones to become fragile. You may not realize this is happening in your body because you can't feel your bones getting weaker.
If osteoporosis progresses, bones can become weak and you can experience a fracture that wouldn't occur in normal bone. The symptoms of your osteoporosis may not be visible unless you have a fracture, so you may not even know you have the disease until you break a bone or a test shows that you have low bone mineral density. And if you've had one broken bone due to osteoporosis, your risk for having another goes up.
Osteoporosis is a serious disease, not a normal part of aging. Although there's no cure for osteoporosis, you can take control by taking precautions and tracking how your osteoporosis is treated to help protect yourself from fractures.
Assess Your Risk
Osteoporosis is sometimes known as a "silent" disease because it often has few warning signs or symptoms. That means you may not know you have it or that it's getting worse until after you've broken a bone. If you've had one fracture due to osteoporosis, it can lead to an increased risk of more fractures. Research studies have shown:
Women who have had a hip fracture due to osteoporosis are 4 times more likely to have another.
Nearly 20% of women who sustain a new spine fracture will have another spine fracture within 12 months.
If you have osteoporosis, some factors that can put you at higher risk for osteoporotic fracture include:Age
Your risk of osteoporotic fracture goes up with age.History of Fracture
One fracture may put you at risk for future fractures.Low Bone Mineral Density (BMD)
This is measured by your T-score.
These are not all the risk factors for osteoporosis. Talk to your healthcare professional to learn more.
Learn About Your T-score
Your T-score compares your BMD to the average BMD in young adults. Osteoporosis is defined as a T-score of -2.5 or lower. The lower, or more negative your T-score, the more likely you are to be at high risk for fracture due to osteoporosis.
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Understanding Your High Risk for Fracture
If you have osteoporosis, some factors that can put you at higher risk for osteoporotic fracture include: your age, history of fracture, and low bone mineral density. Once you've had one broken bone due to osteoporosis, the chance of having another increases. To understand more about the high risk for fracture, read where and how fractures can occur in people with osteoporosis.
How Fractures Can Occur
Osteoporosis can get worse over time, until your bones become fragile enough that they can fracture while doing an everyday activity you've done for years, such as:
Reaching to lift a milk jug from the fridge the wrong way could cause a spine fracture.
Picking up a bag of groceries the wrong way could cause a spine fracture.
Stumbling on a curb can cause a broken bone.
Fractures like these are unlikely to happen in normal bone. If you've broken a bone due to osteoporosis, it may be time to act.
Where Fractures Can Occur
Broken bones from osteoporosis can happen almost anywhere in your body, including the spine, hip and pelvis, wrist, arm, and ankle. Some spine fractures can occur without causing pain. Clues that you might have had a spine fracture include height loss and curvature of the spine. Once you've had one fracture due to osteoporosis, the chance of having another increases.
Healthy Living with Osteoporosis
In addition to taking medication to treat osteoporosis, you can supplement with calcium and vitamin D and adopt healthy habits like exercising and maintaining a healthy diet to help strengthen your bones. No matter your age, you can start new routines to help reduce the risk of broken bones. Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.
How Much Calcium and Vitamin D Is Enough?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that women aged 50 and older get 1200 mg of calcium per day.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D for individuals 50 and older is 800-1000 international units (IU). Ask your healthcare provider what amount is right for you.
Check food labels for calcium and vitamin D amounts per serving.
Consider These Foods
Some good sources of calcium and vitamin D are in a variety of foods. Talk to your healthcare provider about other food choices. Ask whether calcium and vitamin D supplements may be right for you.
Good Sources of Calcium
- Low-fat dairy products
- Non-fat milk
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Fish like salmon
Good Sources of Vitamin D
- Dairy products fortified with vitamin D
- Egg yolks
- Fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, sardines, or mackerel)
Give Your Bones a Workout
Bone is a living tissue that may become stronger by exercising. Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises may help bones become stronger and more dense. You'll find a few bone-strengthening exercises below. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of exercise program.
- Doing low-impact aerobics
- Using stair-step machines
- Using elastic exercise bands
- Lifting weights
- Using weight machines
Keeping Your Balance
As osteoporosis progresses, it becomes more important than ever to maintain your balance. Good balance helps prevent falls and can reduce the risk of more broken bones.
Our vision changes as we get older, making it difficult to see the steepness of stairs and height of curbs. It also gets tough to see obstacles in our path. Get your eyes checked regularly and keep your home well lit.
Aging also causes changes in our middle ear, which helps regulate balance. Plus, certain medications and illnesses can affect the middle ear. If your ears begin to ring, the room begins to spin (vertigo), or if you start having problems with balance, talk to your healthcare professional.
Muscles & Joints
Weak muscles and inflexible joints can also affect your balance. Talk to your healthcare professional if it's difficult to keep your body weight centered over your feet.