Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder that causes bones to lose mass, thereby making them more likely to fracture.
The condition generally affects more women over 50 who have gone through menopause. After menopause, the body has much less estrogen, which influences bone resorption. The bones most commonly affected are the wrist and vertebrae.
Women are affected more frequently than men. Besides gender, age is the next greatest risk factor. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop osteoporosis. Race also plays a role, with people of Caucasian and Asian descent more widely affected.
If osteoporosis runs in your family, your genetic makeup may make you more prone to developing the condition. It is also believed that shorter people and those with smaller body frames are at a higher risk because they have less bone mass than others.
Altered hormone levels contribute to the risk of osteoporosis. While menopause is a common cause of lower estrogen levels for women, men also can see a decrease in testosterone as they age, which can add to their risk. Issues with other glands, such as the thyroid, parathyroid or adrenal glands, also can raise the chances of developing osteoporosis.
Recognize the Warning Signs
If you are a post-menopausal woman over the age of 50, it’s better not to wait until you have a fractured bone to learn you have osteoporosis. Watching for early warning signs can help you stay conscious of the state of your health and treat osteoporosis as soon as possible.
See your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Bone, joint or muscle aches
- Curving spine
- Decrease in height
- Increasing difficulty standing up unassisted
- Pain and swelling after a fall
Early treatment can ease your discomfort and decrease your chance of further injury.
How Is Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
If your physician believes you are at risk for osteoporosis, he or she may recommend a bone density scan. Regular X-rays can determine if you’ve had a fracture, but they do not accurately measure bone density.
The scan results will be read as a T score after being compared to the results of a healthy young adult’s bone mineral density. If you have a standard deviation of -1 to -2.5, your bone density has decreased. Any T score of -2.5 or below is an osteoporosis diagnosis.
Treatments That Can Help
When you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis, you and your doctor will form an individualized treatment plan to protect your health and increase your bone density. First, you should check your diet to ensure you are consuming enough calcium and vitamin D, two minerals that play key roles in bone health.
Next, it’s important to make exercise a priority. Stronger muscles will protect your bones, give you more stability and decrease your chance of falling.
You also can take advantage of a wide range of medications available to help slow or even stop osteoporosis. Hormone replacement therapy also is an option.
You don’t need to suffer with osteoporosis — the physicians at Rocky Mountain Womens Health Centers can help you explore treatment options until you find the one that works best for you.