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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Asthma and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis Management Strategies

Strategies to prevent and treat osteoporosis in people with asthma are not significantly different from the strategies for those who do not have the disease.

Nutrition: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products; dark green, leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Also, supplements can help ensure that the calcium requirement is met each day, especially in those with a proven milk allergy.

Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. It is made in the skin through exposure to sunlight. While many people are able to obtain enough vitamin D naturally and/or from fortified foods, some individuals may require vitamin D supplements in order to ensure an adequate daily intake.

Exercise: Like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best kind of activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity. Some examples include walking, climbing stairs, lifting weights, and dancing.

People who experience exercise-induced asthma should exercise in an environmentally controlled facility and participate in activities that fall within their limitations. They may also use medication when necessary to enable them to exercise.

Healthy lifestyle: Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs. Women who smoke tend to go through menopause earlier, triggering earlier bone loss. In addition, smokers may absorb less calcium from their diets. Alcohol can also negatively affect bone health. Those who drink heavily are more prone to bone loss and fracture, because of both poor nutrition and an increased risk of falling.

Reducing exposure to asthma triggers, such as irritants and allergens, can help lessen a person’s reliance on glucocorticoid medication. Avoiding people with colds and other respiratory infections and minimizing emotional stress can also be important.

Bone density test: Specialized tests known as bone mineral density (BMD) tests measure bone density at various sites of the body. These tests can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and predict one’s chances of fracturing in the future. People with asthma, particularly those receiving glucocorticoid therapy for 2 months or more, should talk to their doctors about whether they might be candidates for a bone mineral density test.

Medication: Like asthma, osteoporosis is a disease with no cure. However, there are medications available to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Several medications (alendronate, risedronate, ibandronate, raloxifene, calcitonin, teriparatide, and estrogen/hormone therapy) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the prevention and/or treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Alendronate is also approved for use in men. For people with asthma who develop or may develop glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis, alendronate has been approved to treat this condition and risedronate has been approved to treat and prevent it.

Because of their effectiveness in controlling asthma with fewer side effects, inhaled glucocorticoids are preferred to oral forms of the medication. Since bone loss tends to increase with increased glucocorticoid doses and prolonged use, the lowest possible dose for the shortest period of time that controls asthma symptoms is recommended.

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WebMD Public Information from the U.S. National Institutes of Health

Reviewed on December 01, 2005

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