When Your Bones Start to Weaken

by Mahala Church

OSTEOPOROSIS; A big word with a simple definition. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that thins our bones,making them vulnerable to fractures as we age. This skeletal disease is found in one of every five women over the age of fifty. Unfortunately, osteoporosis often isn’t discovered until a person falls and breaks a bone.  Osteoporosis has generated a lot of research over the past thirty years; research which revealed the disease is most prevalent for women when their estrogen levels begin to decline during menopause. As men age, their testosterone level declines, and that increases their risk osteoporosis.

Risks & Causes of Osteoporosis

  • Skeletal diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Lupus weaken bone especially if the person has taken corticosteroid medications frequently
  • Extreme inactivity such as bed confinement
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Calcium deficiency causes the parathyroid gland to pull calcium from bone weakening it
  • Medications (not all) for seizures
  • Drinking alcoholic beverages in large amounts
  • Family history
  • Prostate and breast cancer hormone treatments
  • Smoking
  • Very low body weight

Our bodies need two essential minerals to form good bone – calcium and phosphate. If our diet doesn’t provide enough of these minerals, our bones are weakened. As we age, calcium and phosphate are naturally absorbed from bone into the blood stream, making our bones more likely to fracture with the slightest injury.

How Do I Know if I Have Osteoporosis?

A standard x-ray of bones will not show osteoporosis. To accurately make a diagnosis, a bone mineral density test (called a DEXA scan) is needed. There is also a spinal CAT scan which will reveal bone density loss. In some cases doctors order blood and urine tests to determine if the osteoporosis was initiated or worsened by a medical condition.

What Treatments Are Available for Osteoporosis?

When a DEXA scan shows osteoporosis disease, physicians will usually suggest a medication to keep it from worsening.

  • Bisphosphonates:  Treat and prevent osteoporosis in women who are postmenopausal.  May be given orally or intravenously.
  • Calcitonin:  Decreases bone pain and slows bone loss.  May be given by injection or as a nasal spray.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Considered old school and rarely used today.  Generally not given to women who are diagnosed with osteoporosis disease. An exception is women who have been helped by estrogen and are not able to take bisphosphonates or calcitonin.
  • Parathyroid Hormone: Approved for postmenopausal women with advanced osteoporosis who are at high risk to sustain fractures. Given by injection.
  • Raloxifene:  Treats and prevents osteoporosis and reduces spinal fracture risk by roughly 50%. It does not deter other fractures.

What Can I Do to Prevent Fractures?

Foods high in calcium, such as yogurt, cheese, dark green vegetables, tofu, and low-fat milk should be included in the daily diet along with Vitamin D and protein to promote bone health.  Regular exercise is a mainstay to prevent osteoporosis and reduce the chance of fractures.  Weight-bearing exercises, rowing machines, balance and resistance exercises, and riding a stationary bike are all excellent parts of a bone loss prevention program.

Ready to indulge in a healthy diet that’s prepared for you every day? Call your local Care Advisor at (866) 662-0435 to talk about your senior living options and what the advantages of moving to a community are.

Mahala Church is an editor and writer with extensive experience in healthcare management and nursing. Specializing in oncology nursing, she is a strong patient advocate. Her writing couples her degrees in liberal arts and nursing with her experience in business and healthcare to foster support for patient and family education.