Osteoporosis, the most common bone disease, occurs when the body fails to create new bone matter. Specifically, osteoporosis is defined as a disparity in bone resorption, the breaking down of old bone matter, and bone formation, the creation of new bone matter. This deficiency leads to decreased bone density and increases the risk of breakage over time.
Though there are many causes for osteoporosis, its biological basis is a lack of calcium and/or phosphate, which are used by the body to produce new bone. Because absorption of calcium and phosphate naturally decrease with age, it becomes increasingly important to supplement the diet with these nutrients. As we age, resorption of calcium and phosphate occur naturally, leading to older, more brittle, bone. Usually, a breakage occurs before the patient is aware they are suffering from osteoporosis and frequently the break occurs without warning and without a major fall.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Immobilization is both a cause and effect of osteoporosis. A diet lacking in calcium, phosphate or vitamin D (the nutrients required for bone production) will increase the risk of osteoporosis. Inevitable hormonal changes linked to aging also affect bone density. For women, the leading cause of osteoporosis is a drop in estrogen caused by menopause: usually occurring around the age of 50. 1 out of every 5 American women over 50 suffers from osteoporosis. For men, the drop in testosterone occurring around the age of 70 is the leading cause of osteoporosis. Smoking and drinking both increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Many medications, including anti-seizure medications, barbiturates, antiepileptics, anticoagulants, thiazolidinediones (for diabetes), and lithium therapy affect the absorption of calcium, vitamin C or phosphate. Further, corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, can cause steroid-inducted osteoporosis (SIOP) if used over a long period of time.
Common Treatments for Osteoporosis:
Changes in lifestyle and medication are used to treat osteoporosis. The most common treatment, however, is prevention. For many, managing pain, minimizing the risk of falling, and increasing the intake of calcium, vitamin D and phosphate are sufficient. Getting at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 milligrams of vitamin D a day will both provide calcium and increase its absorption into the bones. Dairy products and other foods high in calcium such as salmon and sardines also help prevent bone loss.
Exercise, as well, is an important preventative measure because it reduces the likelihood of bone fractures. Weight-bearing exercises, resistance exercises and balance exercises all increase bone strength and dexterity.
In more serious cases, a variety of medications can be used to prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of breakage. Biphosphonates such as alendronate and ibandronate (taken by mouth, usually weekly or monthly), calcitonin and homone replacement therapy combat pain and increase bone production. Hormone replacement therapy is used for individuals with severe osteoporosis or for those severely at risk of developing it. These medications, such as Teriperitide, which is used to treat post-menopausal women, are highly effective. For the most part hormone replacement therapy can be completed at home. Your doctor will provide the most beneficial course of treatment for your individual needs.