Osteoporosis is a disease of progressive bone loss, increasing one’s risk of fragility fractures (a fracture that occurs from a simple fall that wouldn’t normally result in a fracture). It develops slowly over time and there are no symptoms or discomfort until a fracture occurs.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Bone mass progressively decreasing for men and women after age 35
- Female gender
- Caucasian or Asian race
- Small and slender body type
- Family history of fragility fractures or osteoporosis
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Smoking and excessive alcohol use
- Steroid medications
- Diet low in calcium or vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiency is especially common in West Michigan in the winter, as most people are not exposed to the adequate levels sunlight. Vitamin D levels can be improved by making intentional changes to your diet, taking supplements or increasing exposure to sunset.
While some of the risk factors for osteoporosis cannot be changed, the most effective prevention strategies are ensuring adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, and adequate weight-bearing exercise. Cessation of smoking and excessive alcohol use is also helpful.
Bone density tests are used to diagnose osteoporosis. The initial diagnosis is often made at the time of a fracture. Osteoporosis can be treated with weight bearing exercise and appropriate nutrition. There are a variety of medications that can also play an important role in treatment.
Fall prevention will also reduce the risk of fractures. Physical therapy, canes and walkers can be used to decrease your risk of a fall.