An In Depth Look at Osteoporosis

How many times do we fall every day? Maybe once, if at all. How about in a week? A month? We may not notice these minor tumbles since our skeletal system is strong and healthy, but what happens when it’s not?

As we age, our bones get weaker and we fall more, especially after the age of 50. Studies reveal that people, especially women, with osteoporosis and other bone health issues suffer serious bone fractures as they fall more often with age.

Fractures lead to serious complications, so it’s important to maintain bone health with regular visits with your doctor. But what kinds of bone conditions should you be aware of? Here’s what to look for.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition that can occur in both men and women. It is characterized by low bone mass which weakens the bone, leading to an increased risk of fractures.

Causes & Risk Factors

Osteoporosis is caused by kidney disease, long-term glucocorticoid (or steroid) use and even hyperparathyroidism. However, this condition is most commonly seen in postmenopausal women. This is due to a fall in estrogen levels after menopause which causes bones to store less calcium and become weaker. But some factors affect bone loss even before menopause such as:

  • Age
  • Weight changes
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Physical activity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Number of pregnancies

Effects

Bones are constantly undergoing a process called remodeling. This process is in charge of repairing micro-fractures in the bones due to normal wear and tear, and maintaining calcium deposits in the bone to keep it strong. When this process is damaged, we tend to see a higher likelihood of fractures.

The most damaging of these are hip fractures. According to a report in American Family Physician, women experience 80% of hip fractures. These fractures are associated with increased risk in mortality and lead to further complications. That’s why it’s important to monitor calcium, vitamin D and other metrics to ensure good bone health.

How We Monitor and Diagnose

There are several tests to detect osteoporosis.

The best test is called the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan, or the DEXA scan. This scan works by aiming two X-rays with different energy levels at the same bone. This allows the doctor to measure the density of the bone.

Screening with bone density scans are reported as T and Z scores which indicate how far you are from the normal range. A Z score of less than 2 for postmenopausal women is considered to be low bone density. Guidelines recommend that patients undergo treatment if their Z score is greater than 2.5.

Other than the DEXA scan, you may also have to undergo routine lab evaluations to test urine and serum calcium levels, renal and liver function tests, and vitamin D levels.

Osteoporosis Treatment & Prevention

Osteoporosis treatment and prevention can include:

  • Smoking cessation
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Routine weight bearing exercise
  • Calcium supplements (calcium gluconate, calcium citrate)
  • Vitamin D supplementation

Vitamin D & Calcium Supplementation to Prevent Osteoporosis

While supplementation is one of the best methods to help treat the condition, it has become controversial due to concern that calcium supplements can increase the risk of heart disease. Vitamin D is just as important because it functions to help your intestines absorb calcium from the food you eat and store it in your bones. The recently updated recommended daily allowance is 600 IU per day. Vitamin D deficiency is a serious concern and getting enough is important. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms include bone pain, muscle weakness and can lead to conditions like osteomalacia and osteoporosis.

Conclusion

It is critical to take osteoporosis and bone health very seriously as yourself or your loved one’s age. If you are having trouble keeping up with their medications and getting them to their medical checkups an in home senior care provider can be a great solution!

Angel Companions Senior Care serves all 27 Greater Atlanta counties and has the most experienced in home senior caregivers. If you have any questions please use our contact page form or call us today at 770-579-5000!