Osteoporosis is a disease that causes your bones to become weak and brittle—so much so that even something as normal as coughing could cause a fracture. However, most osteoporosis-related fractures are the result of falls and occur in the hip, spine or wrist.
Certain women are more at risk for osteoporosis. For instance, if you have gone through menopause or have a small body frame, you are at higher risk for osteoporosis. Other groups are at higher risk too. White and Asian women have a higher risk, and if a family member has had it, you are more likely to have it. Hormone imbalances also play a role.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
- Increasing back pain
- Gradual loss of height
- “Hunched over” posture developing
- A bone fracture that occurred easily
If you experience any of these symptoms of osteoporosis, we recommend you schedule an osteoporosis screening today.
The good news is, although there is no cure for osteoporosis, you can take steps to help prevent it—and if you have it, you can prevent more bone loss and reduce your risk of falling. To help prevent osteoporosis:
- Make sure you are getting enough calcium and Vitamin D
- Calcium: Women aged 19 to 50 should consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day. Women over 51 should consume 1,200 milligrams.
- Vitamin D: If you are age 70 or younger, your vitamin D intake should be 600 international units (IU) daily. If you are over 70, that amount increases to 800 IUs daily.
- Note: Your gynecologist and primary care physician may work together in reviewing you medical history to determine if these calcium and Vitamin D guidelines are right for you
- Tobacco use and smoking contributes to weak bones, so stop using tobacco
- Do not consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day
- Get regular exercise, including weight-bearing exercise
Screening for Osteoporosis
At your appointment, your physician will ask you questions related to your symptoms, diet and lifestyle, as well as family history. They will also perform a physical exam, which will include measuring your height and comparing it to your past measurements. Your physician will also examine your body structure, and check for changes in the shape of your spine and your long bones.
Please Note: Before your visit, jot down your symptoms, if you’ve had any, and make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking. Bring this list with you to your appointment—it will help your physician properly diagnose you and get you the treatment you need.
Your physician will also schedule or perform a bone density test. This test is now recommended for all women by age 65, regardless of their risk factors. This screening is a low-level, painless X-ray that measures the strength of your bones by examining the minerals in them. Typically, only the most vulnerable bones are checked, such as the hip, wrist and spine.
Treatment Options for Osteoporosis
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, there are a number of treatment options available, including medications known as bisphosphonates. Hormone-related therapy may also be an option for you.
If the more common treatments don't work for you, your physician will consult with you about other medications that may help. If you are post-menopause, there is a drug that mimics estrogen's beneficial effects on bone density that may help you.
Reducing Fall Risks in Your Home
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you can help reduce your risk of falls by ensuring your home environment is safe and all tripping hazards are removed by following these tips:
- Do an “audit” of your home with a friend to identify any potential tripping hazards and remove them. Examples of dangers include:
- Poorly placed electrical cords
- Slippery or bumpy area rugs
- Clutter left on the stairs or floor
- Lack of handrails
- Make sure your home is well-lit
- Pets often go unrecognized as a tripping hazard. If you have a dog, cat or other pet, develop a plan to avoid tripping on them.
- Always wear proper shoes that allow you to walk safely and comfortably
- Take extra care when getting in and out of the tub and shower, and install grab-bars for safety