Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, making you at greater risk for a fracture. Depending on your bone density, it may only take a cough or sneeze to break a bone. Osteoporosis-related fractures commonly occur in places like the hip, wrist or spine.
Bone is living tissue that is continuously being broken down and replaced. When you’re younger, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down the old, causing your bone mass to increase. As people age, however, bone mass starts to be lost faster than it is created, resulting in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones weakening and there are typically no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by the disease, you may have signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, sometimes caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A hunched posture
- Bones that fracture easily
A number of factors can increase the likelihood that you’ll develop osteoporosis – including lifestyle choices as well as medical conditions and treatments. Talk with your doctor to make sure current medications you’re on aren’t harmful to your bones. Other risk factors include:
- Your sex. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
- Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Race. People of white or Asian descent are at greater risk.
- Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at higher risk.
- Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to be at greater risk because they have less bone mass to draw from as they get older.
You should have a bone density scan at age 65, or earlier if you have certain risk factors for osteoporosis. During this pain-free test, you will lie down as a scanner passes over your body. Usually, only a few bones are checked – in the hip, wrist and spine. The results of the scan help your doctor make a diagnosis.
After your bone density scan, your doctor will assess the likelihood of you fracturing a bone in the next 10 years or so. If you are at low risk, your physician may decide to hold off on medications and instead focus on other treatment options such as a healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise to help prevent bone loss and strengthen weak bones. If you are at high risk for a fracture, your doctor will likely prescribe a bisphosphonate medication to help strengthen your bones.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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