According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Viewed under a microscope, healthy bone looks like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. If you’re 50 or older and have broken a bone, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about a bone density test.
National guidelines for who needs a bone density are as follows:
- Women aged 65 or older
- A broken bone after age 50
- Women of menopausal age with risk factors
- Postmenopausal women under age 65 with risk factors
A bone density test may also be necessary if you have any of the following:
- an X-ray of your spine showing a break or bone loss in your spine
- back pain with a possible break in your spine
- height loss of ½ inch or more within one year
- total height loss of 1½ inches from your original height
Treatment of osteopenia (thinning bone) and osteoporosis can be thought of as a three legged stool. The first leg is good nutrition. Adequate calcium, Vitamin D, and some of the micronutrients are essential. The second leg is weight bearing exercise: basically anything but swimming. The third leg is those at highest risk may benefit from various medications. Talk to your doctorabout what options may be best for you.
After menopause, with a decline in estrogen, bone loss can exceed bone formation. This can be tested with a bone density evaluation in our office.
The best source is a good diet, but many women benefit from supplementation. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs.
Any weight bearing exercise can be beneficial. The only exercise that doesn’t seem to help the bones is swimming.