Osteoporosis

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones. Weakened bones are more likely to fracture (break). Osteoporosis affects men and women, but postmenopausal women are most at risk. To help prevent osteoporosis, you need to exercise and nourish your bones throughout your life.

Childhood

The body builds the most bone during these years. That's why boys and girls need foods rich in calcium. They also need plenty of exercise. A healthy diet and exercise helps bones grow strong.

Young adulthood to age 30

During young adulthood, bones become their strongest. This is called peak bone mass. The same good habits that kept bones healthy in childhood help keep bone healthy in adulthood.

Age 30 to menopause

Bone mass declines slightly during these years. Your body makes just enough new bone to maintain peak bone mass. To keep your bones at their peak mass, be sure to exercise and get plenty of calcium.

After menopause

Menopause is when a woman stops having monthly periods. After menopause, the body makes less estrogen (female hormone). This increases bone loss. At this point, treatment may be needed to reduce the risk for fracture. Exercise and calcium can also help keep your bones strong.

Later in life

In later years, both men and women need to take extra care of their bones. By this point, the body loses more bone than it makes. If too much bone is lost, you may be at risk for fractures. With age, the quality and quantity of bone declines. You can lessen bone loss by staying active and increasing your calcium intake. Calcium supplements and other osteoporosis treatments do have risks, so talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns. If you have osteoporosis, you can also learn ways to increase everyday safety.

Treatments

How is osteoporosis treated?

Your health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old you are
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

The goals of managing osteoporosis are to:

  • Decrease pain
  • Prevent fractures
  • Minimize further bone loss

Some of the ways to treat osteoporosis are also ways to prevent it.

  • Maintain a proper body weight.
  • Increase walking and other weight-bearing exercises.
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Get enough calcium through diet and supplements. Vitamin D is also needed because it helps the body absorb calcium.
  • Prevent falls in the elderly to prevent fractures. This may include installing hand railings, or assistive devices in the bathroom or shower.
  • Ask your doctor about medication.

The FDA has approved these medications to maintain bone health in women with osteoporosis at menopause:

  • Estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). ERT reduces bone loss, increases bone density, and reduces the risk of hip and spinal fractures in postmenopausal women. However, a woman considering ERT should consult her doctor first. Research found several important health risks associated with this therapy. For many women, the risks of ERT outweigh the benefits.
  • Biophosphonates. These medications reduce bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce the risk of fractures.
  • Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMS). This medication helps prevent bone loss.
  • Parathyroid hormone. This medication is a form of parathyroid hormone. It is approved to treat postmenopausal women and men who are at high risk for fractures. It helps form bone.
  • Monoclonal antibody. This medication is given by injection under the skin. It’s approved for women with osteoporosis at high risk for fractures. It’s also used for women who are being treated with cancer medications that can weaken bones.
See All Treatments

Treatments for Osteoporosis

Back to Condition

Symptoms and Screenings for Osteoporosis

Back to Overview

Causes and Preventions for Osteoporosis

Back to Overview

Education and Resources for Osteoporosis

Back to Overview

Support groups for Osteoporosis

Back to Overview

Learn More about Osteoporosis

Vidant Health can connect you to health care professionals to help you understand your condition and guide you through the treatment process. Let’s chat.