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What Is Osteoporosis? What You Need to Know


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.

Increase calcium in your diet. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to keep bones strong. Experts recommend 1,000 milligrams each day for premenopausal women and 1,200 milligrams a day for postmenopausal women.

Excellent sources of calcium include:

  • milk and dairy products (low-fat versions are recommended)
  • canned fish with bones, such as salmon and sardines
  • dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards, and broccoli
  • calcium-fortified orange juice
  • breads made with calcium-fortified flour

You can get the recommended amounts of calcium by having four servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Good choices might include:

  • yogurt made with low-fat milk or whole milk
  • a serving of cheese, tofu, or milk
  • a serving of fish or broccoli
  • calcium-fortified juices, breads, and cereals
  • calcium-fortified dairy products

Supplement your diet. Experts say it is best to get calcium through your diet. But if you don't get enough dietary calcium, ask your health care provider about calcium supplements. Recent studies show that calcium supplements might increase the risk for heart attack, so you and your doctor will have to weigh your individual risks and benefits of supplements and decide what is best for you. 

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