Everyone hears their grandparents, parents or someone they know talk about having osteoporosis.  But what is it?  Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density causing a thinning of the bone.  Density of bone is what we call the structure of bone making it strong.  The less dense the bone, the weaker it gets.

This is not a disease of the very elder population only.  It mostly effects women over the age of 50.  Last time I checked, 50 does not count as elderly!  It is estimated that HALF of women over the age of 50 will have a hip, wrist or spine fracture in their lifetime.  Researchers estimate that 1 in 5 American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis.  Men can also have osteoporosis, but this usually occurs after 70.

What causes osteoporosis?

There are 2 minerals that are necessary for bone strength, calcium and phosphate.  The imbalance between these two can cause a loss of bone density.

  • If your body doesn't absorb enough calcium from your diet
  • If your body actually pulls calcium and phosphate out of your bone for other purposes (yes, it can do that!)
  • Reduced estrogen in women after menopause
  • A drop in testosterone in men
  • Sedentary lifestyle or bed confinement
  • Chronic disease like Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, eating disorders
  • Chronic steroid use
  • Vitamin D deficiency

There are some at greater risk than others.  Those who have a family history of osteoporosis, a low body weight, smoking history or excessive alcohol intake can all increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Because of the lack of structure to the bones, they become weak which can lead to fractures.  In the advanced stages, fractures can happen from a simple thing like getting out of bed in the morning.  It often does not take a lot of trauma, if any.  These fractures can occur anywhere, but most commonly occur in the neck, low back, hip, wrists and feet.  The bones are often painful and fractures of the spine cause stooping and dysfigurement.

For the feet, these fractures often occur with repetitive small trauma like wearing a pair a ballet flats while walking at the mall.  With the loss of structure comes collapse of joints in the feet causing arthritis and pain.  Fractures in the feet from osteoporosis can range from small stresses in the bone to large displaced breaks requiring surgery.  But surgery for osteoporotic patients can be a challenge.

How do you know if you have osteoporosis?

The easiest way to find out is a bone mineral density test or DEXA scan.  In some instances a regular xray can detect some changes in bone, but a DEXA scan is the gold standard.  This test can be ordered by any physician, is painless and usually takes less than 15 minutes to perform.

Treatments for osteoporosis range from changing your diet and increasing your exercise to taking medications that improve bone health.  What you need is all based on why you have osteoporosis and should be discussed with your health care provider.

So what do I do now?

If you have any of these risk factors, then talk to your doctor about a bone density test.  Increase the calcium in your diet, but you must combine it with vitamin D which helps your body absorb calcium.  Exercise is a great way to reduce fractures.  Walking, dancing, weights, yoga, biking...all great forms of exercise that help maintain bone strength.

If you are concerned about pain in your feet and think it may be related to your osteoporosis, contact us to visit us now.