Be Alert for Signs of Osteoporosis

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Caregiver Senior Walker1.jpgMore than 40,000,000 Americans have bone mass issues or are at significant risk of developing them.  Seniors and those taking care of elderly individuals need to know the facts about this common complication.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a significant loss of bone density, resulting in thin and weak bones that can break easily.  It is usually diagnosed through non-invasive, painless bone density tests. Such tests determine whether individuals have normal bone masses, osteopenia (slightly low bone mass), or osteoporosis.

Who is likely to get osteoporosis?

Bone loss occurs naturally as people age, but the degree and rate of bone loss caused by osteoporosis is greater than normal.  All people are more at risk of osteoporosis as they become seniors, but women tend to be at a much higher risk than men.

Other risk factors include:

Background.  Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than women from other ethnic backgrounds; however, that does not mean a person from another background will NOT develop low bone mass issues.

History. People who have a family member with osteoporosis are more likely to develop the condition, as are people who break a bone after they are 50 years of age.

Smoking. Smoking increases the risk of bone mass problems.

Poor diet.  Calcium and vitamin D strengthen bones and make them less prone to developing osteoporosis.

Lack of exercise.  Bones need exercise to remain strong, so a sedentary lifestyle is more likely to lead to osteoporosis.

What can be done to treat osteoporosis?

Providing proper care of elderly individuals includes making sure such ones get bone mass tests as needed; women should generally begin receiving these tests at age 65 (or at age 60 if risk factors are present) and should repeat the process every 2 years thereafter. Men at risk of osteoporosis should also be tested.

Treatment typically involves lifestyle modifications and medical treatments.  Dietary changes, vitamin supplements, and proper exercise routines are the most frequent lifestyle modifications that doctors recommend; if the patient smokes, cessation is also recommended.

Drugs called bisphosphonates are frequently prescribed to treat low bone mass; for some women, estrogen or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) may be recommended. In some cases, other drugs, such as specific thyroid or parathyroid hormones, may be used.

Because there is no cure for osteoporosis, taking good care of elderly ones so that they are at less risk of developing the disorder in the first place is the best strategy.


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