Q. What is osteoporosis?
A. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones. People with osteoporosis have bones that become weak and can break easily. Osteoporosis affects mostly older women, but older men can get it too. It causes about 1.5 million fractures (broken bones) a year. Most of the broken bones are in the hip, back, and wrist.
Q. Isn’t osteoporosis something that happens only to older people?
A. No. Osteoporosis begins when you are a child and is often not found until you are much older. That is why it is so important to eat well and get lots of exercise to keep your bones healthy and strong.
Q. What causes osteoporosis?
A. A family history of osteoporosis, the foods you eat, your hormone make-up, your age, and how you live your life all play a role in causing osteoporosis.
Q. How do I find out if I have osteoporosis?
A. Talk with your doctor to find out if you should be tested for osteoporosis. There are tests that check your bone density (mass).
Q. How is osteoporosis treated?
A. There are medications and hormones (chemicals that are made in your body) that are used to slow down the bone loss and even help build the strength of the bones back up. These treatments help keep your bones from breaking. Talk with your doctor to find out which treatments are best for you.
Q. What can I do to help keep my bones healthy?
A. Here are some ways you can help keep your bones healthy.
- Get enough calcium. Calcium builds strong bones. You can get calcium by drinking lots of milk; eating yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products; and eating dark green and leafy vegetables. You also can eat foods that have calcium added to them such as orange juice and cereals. Many women take calcium pills to make sure they get enough calcium. Talk to your doctor about what is the right amount of calcium for you to get every day.
- Get exercise. Exercise is very important for good health and strong bones. Some of the best exercises for your bones are called weight-bearing exercises. Walking, running, dancing, climbing stairs, or using weights in a gym are all examples of weight-bearing exercise. Talk with your doctor about what kind and how much exercise is best for you.
- Don’t Smoke. People who smoke have more chance of getting osteoporosis.
- Don’t drink lots of alcohol. Alcohol can hurt the cells that build your bones. It also lowers the amount of calcium in your body.
- Don’t skip meals or go on fad diets. Skipping meals and going on fad diets can take away the foods your bones need to stay healthy.
- Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. Even before you go through menopause (the change of life), talk with your doctor about hormone replacement therapy. This is a treatment that puts hormones back in your body after your body stops making them. Hormone replacement therapy can help keep bone loss from taking place.
- Talk to your doctor to find out if you have more chance of getting osteoporosis than other people. Your doctor can help you find ways to keep your bones healthy and do tests to check the health of your bones. If you do get osteoporosis, your doctor can treat you with medicines and hormones.