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Osteoporosis Health Center

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Understanding Osteoporosis -- Diagnosis and Treatment

Medications for Osteoporosis

Evista. Evista is an osteoporosis treatment that has some actions similar to estrogen, such as the ability to maintain bone mass. However, studies have shown that Evista doesn't increase the risk of breast or uterine cancers like estrogen does. Evista often causes hot flashes and has a small increased the risk for causing blood clots.

Actonel, Binosto, Boniva, and Fosamax. These drugs treat osteoporosis by inhibiting cells that break down bone. Actonel, Binosto, and Fosamax are usually taken once a week while Boniva is taken once a month. There are strict ways to take these medications, since if taken incorrectly, they can lead to ulcers in the esophagus.

Reclast. Reclast is given as a once-yearly 15-minute infusion in a vein. Reclast is said to increase bone strength and reduce fractures in the hip, spine, wrist, arm, leg, or rib and works in a similar way as the drugs above. Most common side effects include bone pain, nausea, and vomiting. It should be avoided or used with caution in individuals with decreased kidney function.

Forteo. Forteo is also used for the treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and men who are at high risk for a fracture. A synthetic form of the naturally occurring parathyroid hormone, Forteo is the first drug shown to stimulate new bone formation and increase bone mineral density. It is self-administered as a daily injection for up to 24 months. Side effects include nausea, leg cramps, and dizziness.

Calcitonin. Calcitonin, another treatment option for osteoporosis, is a naturally occurring hormone that inhibits bone loss. It’s synthetic form is available as a nasal spray or injection but is not considered as effective for fracture prevention as other available treatments. Side effects include nausea, runny nose when given as a nasal spray, and skin irritation when given as an injection.

Prolia. Prolia is a monoclonal antibody -- a fully humanized, lab-produced antibody that interferes with the body's bone-breakdown mechanism. It's the first "biologic therapy" to be approved for osteoporosis treatment. It's approved for women at high risk of fracture when other osteoporosis drugs have not worked. Side effects include pain in the back, arms, and legs.

An Osteoporosis Diet for Strong Bones

To ensure that you're getting enough calcium to build and maintain strong bones, doctors recommend eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as nonfat milk, low-fat yogurt, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and leafy green vegetables. One glass of skim milk has the same amount of calcium as whole milk -- 300 mg of calcium.

According to a panel convened by the National Institutes of Health, women who are still menstruating, or who are postmenopausal but taking menopausal hormone therapy, should get 1,000 mg of calcium each day. This jumps to 1,000-1,300 mg per day for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy should get 1,200 mg of calcium per day.

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