Osteoporosis Prevention - What Should You Be Doing?

Pay Attention to Risk Factors

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Osteoporosis is a disease that can cause bone fractures due to brittle or weak bones. As opposed to osteoarthritis where there can be too much bone, patients with osteoporosis have too little bone. It is considered a "silent disease" because you can't feel your bones becoming weak. As a result, it is important to find out how your bones are doing before you have a fracture.

Bone density measurement is a non-invasive way to get this information.

This 10-minute x-ray which uses minimal radiation can diagnose osteoporosis as well as its precursor, osteopenia. Patients at an increased risk for osteoporosis should ask their doctor about getting a bone density test.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors

Risk factors include but are not limited to:

  • Relatively small, thin females (especially those who are post-menopausal)
  • Caucasian or Asian descent
  • Advanced age
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Low calcium diet
  • Use of the following medications: steroids (e.g. prednisone), some anti-seizure drugs, excess thyroid hormone
  • Low testosterone levels in men
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Malabsorption problems (e.g. celiac disease)

Osteoporosis Treatment

If you are found to have osteoporosis, treatment consists of:

  • getting adequate calcium (1500mg/day through calcium supplements or food)
  • adequate vitamin D (typically 400 IU per day which is found in most multi-vitamins though your doctor may recommend a higher dose)
  • avoid smoking and excessive alcohol

Weight bearing exercise such as weight training or even walking is also helpful.​

Osteoporosis Medications

Medications which are available to improve bone density or prevent further loss of bone include:

  • Miacalcin nasal spray (calcitonin)
  • Evista (raloxifene)
  • estrogen
  • Bisphosphonates including weekly Actonel (risedronate) and Fosamax (alendronate), as well as the new monthly preparation, Boniva (ibandronate).
  • Forteo (teriparatide) is an injectable treatment reserved for patients with significant osteoporosis.

Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle of Anti-TNF Blockers and co-author of Natural Arthritis Treatment.