What Is Osteoporosis? What You Need to Know
What Is My Risk for Osteoporosis? continued...
Bone structure and body weight:
Petite and thin women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Weight loss after age 50 in women also seems to increase the risk of hip fractures. Weight gain decreases the risk. Small-boned, thin men have a greater risk of osteoporosis than men with larger frames and more body weight.
History of fractures:
Having one fracture increases the chance of more fractures.
Smoking increases the risk of fractures. Studies show that cigarette smokers (past or current smokers) have lower bone densities and higher fracture risks. Women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen -- a key component for having healthy bones -- compared to nonsmokers. They also frequently go through menopause earlier.
Some medications may increase your risk of osteoporosis. These include long-term use of steroids (prednisone), thyroid drugs, anticonvulsants, antacids, and other drugs.
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 doctor 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 treatment can include:
- calcium and vitamin D dietary supplements
- weight-bearing exercises (which force your muscles to work against gravity)
- smoking cessation
- osteoporosis medications such as Actonel, Boniva, Calcimar, Evista, 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 to 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.