woman learning about osteoporosis

Osteoporosis 101

It is estimated that over 200 million people worldwide suffer from osteoporosis. Of these individuals, around 40% of women and up to 30% of men will experience a fracture. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis causes more than eight million fractures annually worldwide. That translates into an osteoporotic fracture happening somewhere every three seconds. Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, you can lessen your risk of an osteoporosis related fracture.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone-weakening condition sometimes referred to as a “silent” condition because it doesn’t always present noticeable symptoms. Osteoporosis causes significant damage to bones, specifically a loss of mass and decreased tissue, which increases the risk of fracture.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

The risk of osteoporosis increases naturally with age. Women are more prone to osteoporosis because their bones are lower in density and they lose more mass as they grow older. Other risk factors include:

  • loss of estrogen
  • low calcium
  • low vitamin D levels
  • genetic predisposition

How to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis

The key to preventing osteoporosis is early detection. The only way to diagnose osteoporosis before a fracture occurs is with a DEXA scan.

The DEXA scan uses low-dose x-rays to compare your bone density with that of someone your own age who is in good health. The difference is “scored” allowing the provider to assess your bone mineral density level. The scan is quick and completely painless. You will lie on a soft table as the scanner passes over your lower spine and hip. It takes only a few minutes, and you probably won’t even need to undress. All you have to do is remain still during the scan.

A bone density scan is typically repeated every two years, though this can vary from patient to patient. Talk to your doctor about how often you should be tested as he or she will prescribe the scan.

Reduce Your Risk

Exercise can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise can be especially beneficial, as it helps to keep bones strong. Increasing your calcium intake can also help decrease osteoporosis risk. In addition to low-fat milk, consider consuming more:

  • spinach
  • kale
  • soybeans
  • white beans
  • sardines, salmon, and other fish
  • calcium-fortified products such as orange juice and breakfast cereal

“I have had 3 DEXA scans done as I have osteopenia. I feel that it is very important to have the DEXA scan done as it gives us a very clear picture of any changes that occur as I get older.  They can determine if it progresses to osteoporosis and prescribe other treatment.” – Betty, MIF Patient

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