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What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass, and the deterioration of bone architecture leading to bone fragility and increased risk of fracture. Bone normally rejuvenates itself through a process of bone absorption and formation called bone remodeling.  Osteoporosis occurs when bone breakdown, or absorption, occurs at a rate greater than bone formation.

Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?

There are many factors that can increase a woman's risk of osteoporosis. A few of the risk factors are:

  • Postmenopausal
  • Ethnicity-Caucasian and Asian
  • Family history
  • Petite, small frame
  • Eating disorders
  • Caffeine
  • Smoking
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Inactivity
  • Thyroid disease
  • Chronic steroid use

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Do I have osteoporosis?

In order to demonstrate bone loss, a bone scan would need to be performed. The most common type of bone scan is a DEXA test.  A bone scan is recommended for all women over 65 years old. In addition, women with risk factors other than menopause, postmenopausal women with a history of a fracture and women considering therapy for osteoporosis should speak to their health care providers about early testing.

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What is a bone scan and will it hurt?

A bone scan is an x-ray that can show bone loss in the spine and hip area. The test takes about 10-20 minutes.

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How can I prevent/treat osteoporosis?

Treatment and prevention of osteoporosis depends on the severity of the disease. The first line of prevention is calcium supplementation and exercise.  Medications can also be added if additional protection from osteoporosis is indicated.

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How much calcium should I take?

Calcium should be taken after meals in divided doses of no more than 500mg.  Calcium should be taken with vitamin D 400-800 IU.

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How much exercise do I need to protect myself from osteoporosis?

Exercise stimulates the bone remodeling cycle. Weight bearing exercises such as weight training, running, walking, biking and cross country machines will provide both aerobic and weight bearing exercise.  Consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

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What medications are used to treat osteoporosis?

There are several medical treatments for osteoporosis. Estrogen therapy has been used to treat osteoporosis for many years. Newer non hormonal treatment options are now available, these are the bisphosphonates, alendronate and risedronate, raloxifene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator and calcitonin.  Talk to your health care provider to determine the best treatment option for you.

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