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Learning more about bone loss

One of the most prominent womens health issues is osteoporosis – one in four women over the age of 50 has it. Men are also affected by this condition, with one in eight men over the age of 50 showing signs of osteoporosis. However, it can strike at any age, and it's preventable at a younger age.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones in the body lose mass and density. The disease's name literally means "porous bones." The bones become brittle, and certain joints are more vulnerable to fractures, notably the hips, wrists and spine.

Osteoporosis normally occurs without symptoms, but risk factors for the condition include:

  • Being age 65 or older.
  • Having a fracture with minimal trauma after 40.
  • Having a vertebral compression fracture.
  • Family history of osteoporosis, especially if your mother had a hip fracture.
  • Long-term use of glucocorticoid drugs such as Prednisone.
  • A tendency to fall.
  • Early menopause in women.
  • Hypogonadism (loss of menstrual periods in younger women, or low testosterone in men).
  • Losing approximately two inches or more in height overall, with an inch or more over a year.
  • Kyphosis (curvature of the spine into a hump-like effect).

Osteoporosis Treatment

Your family doctor will make his or her diagnosis of your condition by performing a bone mineral density test, or BMD. This test is performed at special centers for people who are at high risk for the condition. A small X-ray will scan your back to test for bone density and then the results will be analyzed to determine if you have osteoporosis.

Once the diagnosis has been made, your doctor will prescribe medications to preserve your bone density and reduce fractures. Evista and Fosamax are just some of the drugs that may be offered to you. Drugs may also be combined if you are still experiencing bone loss and fractures after drug therapy has been started. You will also be told to increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D.

Osteoporosis doesn't have to be a part of getting older. You can slow down or prevent osteoporosis by eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Resources for osteoporosis can be found online through support groups, informational websites and forums. Your doctor can answer any other questions you have about the condition, and help you live better with it.

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