Osteoporosis is a serious medical condition that can lead to significant injuries, especially in older adults. By understanding risk reduction and treatment options, you can reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis or serious complications if it occurs.
Limited But Important Effects Of Nutrients
In an effort to reduce your risk of osteoporosis, integrating sufficient calcium and vitamin D into your diet from an early age is important. Older adults, especially women, are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen seemingly has a protective effect, which declines as women reach their post-menopausal years. Since calcium is predominately found in dairy products, it is easy for to become deficient in the nutrient, due to lactose intolerance or dietary restrictions that forbid animal products.
As an alternative to dairy products, typical breakfast foods, such as cereals and orange juice, and milk alternatives are frequently fortified with calcium. Since calcium does little or nothing to help bones without the addition of vitamin D, many people may not be helping their bones if they are purely focusing on calcium. Some deficiencies in vitamin D can be improved by spending time in the sun, especially if you have a deeper skin tone. People with deeper skin tones have a harder time acquiring vitamin D from the sun, due to the natural sun protection of melanin.
Spending a few minutes in the sun each day without SPF, upwards of 15 minutes, is an easy way to increase vitamin D with a negligible risk of sun damage. Of course, supplements are an alternative when calcium and vitamin D cannot be acquired in sufficient amounts via food. Make sure the supplements you choose are appropriate for your gender and age so you are receiving appropriate amounts. Many supplements provide your complete daily allowance of vitamin D, but not calcium; therefore, you may need a separate calcium supplement if you are not consuming enough through diet.
Medications Work Differently
Once osteoporosis has occurred, eating a diet sufficient in calcium and vitamin D remains important, but does little to help negate the effects of osteoporosis. The medications available for treating osteoporosis are limited and different classes are appropriate for different concerns. The most common medications available are bisphosphates, which are used to slow bone loss. Such medications may be more useful when osteoporosis is caught early. Unfortunately, it is rare to identify osteoporosis in its early stages. First, bone density scans are not routine medical tests. Osteoporosis may only be noticed after a catastrophic problem, such as a non-traumatic bone break, from a simple fall or even while walking.
In the latter stages of osteoporosis, slowing bone loss may not do much since the bones are already significantly brittle. Another option for medication, which is less common, are medications that can help build bone. Currently, there is only one such medication that is capable of creating a net gain in bone density. This type of medication may be more appropriate for people who desperately need an increase in bone density to help prevent future fractures and for those who have been identified as having insufficient bone growth to replace bone that is being lost.
The Horizon Of Osteoporosis Treatment
Perhaps the most notable changes in osteoporosis treatment is research into new medications. Drug manufacturers are in the process of testing a new medication to help build bone in people with osteoporosis. If approved, this would diversify the landscape of treatment by giving patients another option. Adding treatment options for osteoporosis has not been easy. For example, one promising medication was recently pulled from further clinical trials due to the increased risk of adverse events.
Another important aspect of osteoporosis treatment is emerging research into the severity of osteoporosis and encouraging patients to start treatment. Since injuries in older adults, such as hip fractures, have been well-documented to increase the chances of significant disability, loss of independence, and even death from blood loss, aggressively treating osteoporosis has become increasingly important.
Although osteoporosis is more common in post-menopausal women, it is never too early to start reducing your risk factors, no matter your age or gender. Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, treating the condition aggressively may give you the best chance at avoiding severe complications.
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