What is osteoporosis? 

More than 53 million Americans at risk for bone fractures. This is due to osteoporosis. That's a condition where bones become weak and more likely to break. People with osteoporosis often break their hip, spine and wrist bones. Fortunately, this is a disease that you can prevent with lifestyle changes. These changes include a healthy diet and increased exercise.

Causes of osteoporosis

The most common cause of this condition is not having enough estrogen in your body. Estrogen is the hormone that gives you female characteristics. But it can also keep your bones from breaking down. If you have both of your ovaries removed, it can also cause osteoporosis. Your ovaries make estrogen. If they're removed, you may not have enough of the hormone in your body.

Risk factors for osteoporosis

Some risk factors are things you can't change. Your age is one. The older you are, the likelier you are to have osteoporosis. Smaller, thin women who are either white or Asian are more likely to get this condition. Other risk factors include low estrogen levels.

If you have a diet low in calcium and vitamin D, you're at higher risk for osteoporosis. Drinking alcohol, smoking and not exercising can also make it more likely for you to develop the condition. It's more of a risk if you take certain drugs, such as steroids. Also, people who have eating disorders are at greater risk.

Symptoms of osteoporosis

Many people don't know they have this condition until they fracture or break a bone. However, telltale signs include a gradual loss of height and a slouched, stooped posture. You may develop backaches, too. Other symptoms include:

  • Fractures of spine, wrist or hip bones that happen easily
  • Dental X-rays that show that your jawbone is smaller than it was before

Diagnosis of osteoporosis

Your doctor can measure your bone density with a test that uses a machine that's similar to a regular X-ray machine. This is a painless test. Your doctor checks a few bones in the areas that you're most likely to break during a fall.

Treatments for osteoporosis

Your doctor can determine your treatment based on how bad your osteoporosis is. If you have an increased risk of fractures in the next 10 years, your doctor may give your certain medicines. Some of these medications can have difficult side effects. Medication options include injections that you have four times a year. You can also choose a type that goes directly into your body through an IV line.

Another treatment for osteoporosis is known as hormone-related therapy. With this, your doctor prescribes estrogen hormone medications. These can help you maintain your bone density and may slow how fast your osteoporosis advances. Doctors usually prescribe this to women after they've gone through menopause.

Other medications are available that can stimulate your bones to grow more. They can also make your bones denser. That way, they may be less likely to fracture. Lifestyle changes can help, too. Try to eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. These are substances your body can use to strengthen your bones. Don't drink too much alcohol or smoke tobacco. Try lifting weights to strengthen the muscles around your bones. 

It's also an important part of treatment to reduce your risk of falling. Be sure to get your vision checked regularly. You can also try workouts like yoga to help improve your balance. If necessary, use a walker or keep a flashlight next to your bed. You should also check your home for rugs that can cause you to slip.

Recovery from osteoporosis

Once you develop it, osteoporosis is a condition that you have for the rest of your life. A combination of medication and lifestyle changes can make it easier for you to live an active, healthy life for years to come. Try to be proactive about reducing your risk of further loss of bone density. It's also a good idea to rearrange furniture at home to reduce falls.

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