Osteoporosis - Are you at risk?

 Osteoporosis - Are you at risk?

Osteoporosis risk

What is Osteoporosis?

From birth onward, your bones are constantly renewing themselves. Slowly but steadily, old bone is removed and new bone is formed. With advancing age, particularly after menopause, old bone continues to be removed, but new bone formation starts to lag behind. This results in a gradual and steady decrease in the amount of bone material. This decrease may lead to the condition called osteoporosis, or "porous bones. " As bone density decreases, the bones become weaker and more likely to break (fracture). Both men and women experience progressive decrease in bone density as they age, however, it will occur more quickly and more severely in some people than others.

Who Will Get Osteoporosis?

The risk of osteoporosis is greater in:

Women after menopause

Caucasian and Asian women, though African American women are also at risk

Women with a family history of osteoporosis

Women with small bone frames, thin women

Women and men with certain uncommon medical conditions (such as hyperparathyroidism) or use of certain medications such as cortisone, heparin, seizure medicines, and some cancer treatments.

How Can I Tell if I Have Osteoporosis?

There are tests that can measure bone strength and the risk of fracture. One test measures your Bone Mineral Density (BMD). Another test measures other structural features of bone. You should discuss with your doctor whether these tests would be helpful for you.

Description of Testing for Bone strength

There are two main types of tests measuring bone strength:


DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry)

Uses radiation to determine bone density.

The spine and hip are most commonly measured, but the heel, wrist or total body may also be measured.

The procedure takes up to twenty minutes, and results in about as much radiation exposure as a standard X-ray (if the spine or hip is measured) or less (if the heel or wrist is measured).

Sound Waves

Uses sound waves to measure bone structure, so there is no radiation exposure.

Measurements are made in the heel or in the shin.

The procedure can be completed quickly, generally in less than ten minutes.

The results of these tests will vary, depending on the machine used and what part of the body studied. Therefore, if your doctor recommends a follow-up test in the future, make sure that the same type of machine is used to test the same part of your body, so that results may be compared accurately and any changes in your bone noted.

Strategies For Bone Health

Regardless of the results of a bone measurement test, all individuals should consider the following measures:


- increase calcium intake from an early age to increase maximum bone density. Foods that are rich in calcium are dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu and almonds. Dietary supplements are also helpful, and may be necessary for some people to assure adequate intake. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that an "Adequate Intake" of calcium is 1,000 mg/day for individuals under age 50, and 1,200 mg/day in those over 50 years. Vitamin D is also important for calcium absorption and bone health. The recommended daily amount is 400 - 800 IU.


- particularly weight bearing activities such as walking and jogging.

Life style

- stop smoking, limit alcohol use.


Women with decreased estrogen levels, as a result of either surgical or natural menopause, should, in consultation with their physician, discuss the risks and benefits associated with other medical therapies in addition to the steps recommended above. The risks/benefits of each of these therapies are not easily delineated and depend on an individual's current condition and medical history.