Facts You Need to Know About Osteoporosis

Many health articles indicate that the first time a person realizes that they have osteoporosis is when a fracture occurs, often without a slip or fall.  As these symptoms do not usually occur at the early stage of the condition, osteoporosis is sometimes difficult to detect.

What is Osteoporosis?

Most health articles describe osteoporosis as a condition that causes thinning of weakening of the density of bone mass. Often covered in menopause information, osteoporosis means a person will have weaker bones and a higher risk of bone fracture. Osteoporosis is not arthritis, which leads to problems in joints due to cartilage wear.  Rather, osteoporosis is a problem of the bone and its ability to support the weight of your body.

Menopause information further says there are two main categories of osteoporosis – Type 1 and Type II.  Type I osteoporosis occurs in post-menopausal women and is caused by estrogen deficiency.  Type II osteoporosis is due to aging and calcium deficiency over long periods of time.  While generally assumed they are typical menopause symptoms, Type II osteoporosis occurs in both men and women.

What causes osteoporosis?

Both men and women reach their peak bone mass in the third decade of life.  After that, bone mass gradually and steadily decreases.  In pregnant and lactating women, the rate of bone mass will temporarily decrease when the increased calcium demands of pregnancy or breast-feeding are not met by increased dietary intake of calcium.  Menopause symptoms also show a significant decrease of bone mass in the immediate post-menopausal period.  Women are especially prone to developing thin bones because they don’t develop as much bone while younger and the rate of bone loss in women is greater than men.  Because of this, health articles indicate age and gender are the most important risk factors for developing osteoporosis.

Other important risk factors that may contribute to developing osteoporosis include northern European ancestry, hypothyroidism, anti-convulsive medications, and a sedentary lifestyle.  Americans are especially prone to developing osteoporosis – the exact cause of this is not known.  We do know that this is not entirely related to ancestry as studies have shown that individuals that integrate into the United States from other countries develop an American’s higher risk of osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The most useful test is called bone densitmetry or dexa scan.  While this test does require special equipment, it was proven safe, however, exposes the patient to small amounts of radiation that is useful for detecting early osteoporosis.

What is the Treatment for Osteoporosis?

There are three major treatments, which include exercise, nutrition supplementation (up to 1500 mg. of calcium supplement daily), and medication.  Since often included in menopause symptoms, hormonal replacement therapy, or HRT, helps maintain and potentially increase bone mass after menopause. While there are other side effects to HRT, such as uterine and breast cancer, blood clots, and strokes, estrogen (or HRT therapy) may be effective for osteoporosis.

In summary, it is of the utmost importance that all individuals (especially women) remain active to help maintain strong bones to prevent osteoporosis.  Even simple forms of exercise, like walking or aerobics, help significantly.  Maintaining adequate calcium intake and potentially HRT should be considered.

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