What is osteoporosis?
Our body is always simultaneously building new bone and tearing down old bone. For most of our lives, the two processes are in balance. But as we get older, many of us start tearing down more bone than we produce. If the loss becomes too great, it may cause osteoporosis—brittle bones that break easily. Both men and women lose bone density at about the same rate once they reach ages 60 to 70. One sign that osteoporosis is present is when a bone breaks easily—for instance, in a fall from a standing height. Another is a loss of height, which occurs when bones in the spine develop compression fractures. Osteoporosis is more likely to develop in women after menopause, smokers and heavy alcohol users, people with rheumatoid arthritis, people with close relatives who have osteoporosis, and people who take corticosteroid or thyroid medicines over a long period.
Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is important for bone strength, and it’s best if it comes from the foods you eat—such as dairy products, leafy dark green vegetables, tofu, and sardines—rather than from calcium pills. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of calcium for men ages 51 and older is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) per day. For women ages 51 and older, it’s 1,200 to 1,500 mg per day. If it’s not possible to get enough calcium from food, you can use a low-dose calcium supplement to reach your daily RDA. But try to do it with diet, since some evidence indicates that large doses of calcium pills may increase the risk of death from heart disease.
Vitamin D aids calcium absorption. “Typically you’ll need 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. But some people need more, depending on their blood levels of vitamin D.
If a person has significant risk factors, it’s a good time to check bone density. That’s done with low-level x-rays in a test called a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (DEXA). The findings produce a T-score, which compares one’s bone density to that of a person at peak bone density (around age 30). A T-score of –2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis. A T-score between –1 and –2.5 indicates low bone density. A DEXA scan is typically used after menopause, if significant risk factors are present, or at age 65. It can also be done every two years if needed to monitor bone density.
In some cases, you may need a type of medication to help build bone called a bisphosphonate, such as alendronate.It’s right for someone who is deemed to be at high risk for fracture, someone who has osteoporosis, or someone who has already had a fracture from a fall. These medications can have potential adverse effects ranging from nausea to an increased risk of a fractured thighbone. The benefits of treatment outweigh the risks, “as long as the medication plan is personalized and supervised, and you sometimes take a holiday from the drug, as prescribed by your doctor.”
|This helps improve the bone density in the lower legs.Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Hold the back of your chair for balance. Raise yourself up on tiptoe, as high as possible. Hold briefly, then lower back to a standing position.Aim for eight to 12 repetitions. Rest and repeat the set.|