The Medical Minute: What is osteoporosis? Why now? Why me?

Jul 29, 2009 By Edward J. Fox

Osteoporosis comes from a Latin term which means "holes in the bone." In reality it is a skeletal disease characterized by low bone mineral density and structural deterioration of bone, leading to bone weakness and increased risk of fracture. Untreated, osteoporosis can lead to fragility fractures, which are broken bones that occur from falls at a standing height. These most commonly occur at the wrist, hip, or spine.

Women are more at risk for than men since women lose the protective effect of estrogen once menopause is reached. Other risk factors include Asian and Caucasian descent, small skeletal frame and low body weight, tobacco and alcohol use, sedentary lifestyle, poor lifelong , certain medications, diabetes, transplants, gastric bypass/gastrectomy, anorexia/bulimia, , and neuromuscular disorders.

Starting at age 30, bone is lost at 0.2 percent per year, and jumps to 2 percent per year after menopause. Current guidelines recommend at least 1,500mg of calcium and 800IU of Vitamin D per day. This can usually be accomplished by consuming at least three cups of milk (low-fat or fat-free are OK) plus calcium-rich foods like broccoli, almonds, yogurt, and cheese.

However, calcium and Vitamin D are not enough by themselves to stop osteoporosis. Special prescription medications called anti-reabsorptive agents (which can be taken as little as once a year) can halt the loss of bone over time. Exercise has been also shown to improve bone strength, and can improve balance, thus preventing falls and fractures that may result.

Is it too early (or late) to start osteoporosis prevention?

No. Good at an early age translates to a lower risk of fracture later on in life. This can be accomplished by making sure you get enough calcium, Vitamin D, and exercise. On the other hand, post-menopausal women may ask, “is it too late to start osteoporosis intervention?” Again, the answer is no. It is never too late to stop bone loss once you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Even a 1 percent improvement in density translates to a decreased risk of fracture. And that’s still true for someone even in their 90s or beyond.

Who should I see to be diagnosed and treated for osteoporosis?

The easiest way to start is by contacting your primary care provider and asking to be evaluated for osteoporosis. However, there are other specialists who also manage osteoporosis, such as gynecologists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, and orthopaedists.

Source: Penn State, by Edward J. Fox

Explore further: Bar attendance supports heavy drinking by young adults in the US-Mexico border region

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Prevent a bone break, drink milk to boost calcium

Jun 09, 2008

Boosting calcium intake by drinking milk could reduce healthy adults' chances of a debilitating bone break. In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, healthy men and women supplemented with 1 ...

Heart failure patients have higher risk of fractures

Oct 20, 2008

Heart failure patients are at higher risk for fractures, including debilitating hip fractures, than other heart patients and should be screened and treated for osteoporosis, Canadian researchers reported in Circulation: Jo ...

Recommended for you

Hospital acquisitions leading to increased patient costs

8 hours ago

The trend of hospitals consolidating medical groups and physician practices in an effort to improve the coordination of patient care is backfiring and increasing the cost of patient care, according to a new study led by the ...

Competition keeps health-care costs low, researchers find

8 hours ago

Medical practices in less competitive health-care markets charge more for services, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2009
Osteoporosis comes from a Latin term which means "holes in the bone."

Lipame poly, omos:
Osteoporosis is definitely not Latin. It's Greek.
Osteon (ancient Greek) or osto (contemporary Greek) means bone. The latin word is os.
Poros is Greek for ford, passage. There is no Latin word with stem "por".
Finally, "-is" is typical Greek.