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Osteoporosis

What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones become thin, brittle and weak. From childhood until 30 years old, bone is formed faster than it is broken down. After age 30, bone starts to break down faster than it is made. A small amount of bone loss after age 35 is normal in all women; however, too much bone loss can result in osteoporosis. In someone with osteoporosis, the bones are still the same size, but the outside walls of the bone become thinner and the holes in the inside of the bone become larger. These changes greatly weaken the bone.

What are the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis?
Back pain and tenderness are some of the symptoms of osteoporosis. Some of the signs include a loss of height larger than what is normal for your age group and a slight curving of your upper back. Anyone with a fracture or a broken bone in adulthood should possibly be evaluated for osteoporosis.

What factors increase the risk of osteoporosis?
Person history of fracture, family history of osteoporosis, Caucasian race, poor nutrition, low body weight, early onset of menopause, removal of ovaries, diet low in calcium, lack of weight bearing exercise and history of falls are all factors which could lead to osteoporosis.

How to prevent osteoporosis?
Exercise increases bone mass before menopause and slows down bone loss after menopause. Just like muscles are strengthened with exercise, so are bones. Calcium also slows the rate of bone loss. If the amount of calcium in your bloodstream is too low, it will be taken from your bones to supply the rest of your body. Women over the age of 50 need to take 1,500 mg of Calcium and 800 units of Vitamin D daily. Good sources of calcium are dairy products, leafy green vegetables, nuts and seafood.

What is a bone density test?
A bone density test measures your bone mass in your heel, spine, hip, hand or wrist. By measuring these areas, you doctor will get a sense of your bone density in the rest of your body. All women over the age of 65 should have a bone density test every 2 years.  Most insurance companies will pay for a bone density test after age 55.
How is a bone density test read?
Results are measured by a T-score. Scores indicate the amount one's bone mineral density varies from the mean. Negative scores indicate lower bone density, and positive scores indicate higher. The T-score is the relevant measure when screening for osteoporosis. Normal is a T-score of -1.0 or higher. Osteopenia is defined as between -1.0 and -2.5. Osteoporosis is defined as -2.5 or lower, meaning a bone density that is two and a half standard deviations below normal bone density. In other words, the more negative the score, the worse it is.

What is the treatment for osteoporosis?
There are several treatment options for osteoporosis. One option is Prolia. Prolia is an every 6 month injection which is given to you at your doctor's office. Other options for treatment are bisphosphonates, such as Actonel, Fosamax, Boniva or Evista. Bisphosphonates are used to slow bone breakdown. In osteoporosis, they are used to help increase bone density and also to reduce the risk of fractures. You may also be treated with Reclast, which is an IV medication given yearly. You must also take Calcium 1,500mg and Vitamin D 800 units daily. Before beginning either of these medications, you will need to have some blood drawn at your doctor's office.