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What Is Osteoporosis? What You Need to Know

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How Is Osteoporosis Related to Menopause?

At menopause, there's a dramatic decline in the female hormone estrogen. This decline slows the bone remodeling process and causes an accelerated rate of bone loss. This more rapid loss of bone continues for about 10 years after menopause. The rate of bone loss eventually returns to premenopausal levels. But bone formation does not. This causes postmenopausal women to have a much greater chance of having a fracture.

In addition, having an early menopause (before age 40) also increases the chance of osteoporosis and fractures. Having prolonged periods of time when hormone levels are low and/or absent, such as can happen with excess exercise, causes loss of bone mass and osteoporosis.

How Do I Know if I Have Osteoporosis?

First, check your risk factors. Then, ask your health care provider about a bone mineral density (BMD) test or bone scan. A bone mineral density test can provide information about your bone health before problems begin. Bone mineral density tests use very small amounts of radiation to determine the strength of your bones.

For in depth information, see WebMD's Osteoporosis Self-Test: Check Your Risk.

How Is Osteoporosis Treated?

Many osteoporosis treatments are successful in stopping bone loss and reducing your risks of fractures. Some osteoporosis treatments include dietary and lifestyle choices. Other treatments include osteoporosis medications. These drugs can slow bone loss or build new bone. Osteoporosis treatments include:

  • weight-bearing exercises (which force your muscles to work against gravity)
  • smoking cessation
  • osteoporosis medications such as Actonel, Boniva, Calcimar, Evista, Binosto, Fosamax, Reclast, Fortical, and Miacalcin
  • injectable Forteo or PTH to rebuild bone in women at high risk for fracture
  • injectable Prolia for women at high risk for fracture

How Can I Prevent Osteoporosis?

There are several proven ways that may help prevent osteoporosis and fractures.

Exercise. Establish a regular exercise program. Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also helps you stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises are best for preventing osteoporosis. They should be done at least three to four times a week.

Walking, jogging, playing tennis or racket sports, and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. In addition, strength and balance exercises help build stronger muscles and may help you avoid falls. This will decrease your chances of breaking a bone.

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