During childhood,

our bodies build bone faster than it breaks down, allowing the bones to become larger and stronger. However, as we grow older, the bone remodeling process changes and new bone gets laid down at a slower rate, which means that the body is producing new bone more slowly than it is breaking down old bone. Over time, the bones gradually grow less dense and more porous, resulting in a condition called osteoporosis wherein which the bones become thin, brittle, and significantly more prone to breakage.

The female hormone estrogen helps protect the body from this bone loss, but after menopause the ovaries produce less estrogen than they once did. This decrease in the body’s estrogen levels triggers a period of rapid bone loss in women that starts approximately one year before the final menstrual period and lasts for about three years thereafter. As a result, women are statistically four times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men of the same age.

is usually heralded by a condition called osteopenia, when the bone density is lower than normal but not yet low enough to be classified as osteoporosis . During this stage a patient may not experience any noticeable symptoms at all. In fact, many do not even realize that they have developed osteoporosis until a relatively minor strain, bump, or fall causes the weakened bones in the back or hips to fracture. However, over time, the increasing weakness can contribute to collapsing vertebra, which can cause severe back pain, loss of height, stooped posture, or other spinal deformities. Fortunately there are ways to help slow the progression of osteoporosis and treatments to help avoid the most serious effects.

Osteoporosis Treatment

A bone mineral density (or BMD) test is a reliable and painless way to ascertain valuable information about bone health, genetics, and early menopause and to catch osteoporosis before problems arise. It is often recommended for women over the age of 65, as well as for those who have other risk factors (such as a history of smoking, genetics, early menopause, or certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) as well as for menopausal women who have recently suffered from bone fractures.

The best way to avoid the effects of osteoporosis is to prevent them from occurring in the first place, with healthy diet and exercise. Eating foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D can help protect your bones no matter what your age and regular, weight bearing exercise helps the body build bone and maintain it. Researchers have found that women who walk just a mile a day have four to seven more years of bone reserve than women who do not exercise regularly. In all cases, be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to avoid activities that could worsen, rather than help, your condition.

Sometimes prevention is not enough so, treatments for established osteoporosis generally include various medications designed to supplement or rebuild bone. Hormone therapy with estrogen supplements is also believed to help alleviate or even prevent the increased rate of bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis in women who have undergone menopause. Physical therapy and a regular exercise program that maintains muscle tone and joint health can also help to reduce or prevent future bone loss. Consult with your doctor at Gynecology Associates of Gwinnett to determine which treatment methods are best suited to your specific needs.

Osteoporosis FAQs

Osteoporosis affects women (and men) of all races, but white and Asian women (particularly older women and/or those who are past menopause) are at highest risk. The condition does seem to be at least partially inherited, and because bone loss occurs gradually over time, those with larger frames and more stored bone mass are less likely to exhibit symptoms. Some medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain hormonal disorders have also been linked to bone loss. Long term cigarette smoking has been shown to reduce bone density, making the individual more susceptible to developing osteoporosis, and certain medications such as steroids (prednisone), thyroid drugs, anticonvulsants, and antacids may also increase the risk.
Milk that has been fortified with vitamin D is one of the best sources of calcium, but dairy products like yogurt and cheese can serve as well. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, in addition to being good sources of calcium, also contain vitamin D, helps the body effectively absorb the calcium it takes in. Leafy green vegetables provide magnesium, which helps to maintain good bone quality. Certain foods can even reduce your body’s calcium, making you more susceptible to bone loss. To encourage optimal bone growth, avoid salty foods, canned soups, and processed meats, the excessive consumption of caffeine and heavy alcohol use.
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