Spotlight on Osteoporosis

Literally meaning “porous bone,” osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and progressive bone loss. As many as 53 million people in the United States already have or are at risk for osteoporosis.

Often referred to as a “silent disease,” osteoporosis generally causes no symptoms. Bone loss occurs gradually over the years until bones become so thin and weak that a minor injury or a sudden strain results in a fracture or a collapsed vertebra.

What Are Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?

Many key factors are consistently linked to osteoporosis. Some risk factors are controllable, but others are not.

  • Gender—Women account for the majority of osteoporosis cases. Women naturally have smaller bones and less bone tissue than men. When women reach menopause, their bodies’ production of estrogen, a female hormone that helps maintain bone density, significantly declines. However, men also can develop osteoporosis.

  • Age—As people age, their bones become less dense. Generally, as people age, their risk for developing osteoporosis increases.
Our Loss of a Bone Easel Display
explains the progression of osteoporosis.

  • Ethnicity—Osteoporosis is most common in Caucasian and Asian women, but black and Hispanic women also are at risk.

  • Heredity—Having parents who have experienced fractures can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

  • Body Size—Having a small body frame (a frame that is slender and small-boned) increases the risk of osteoporosis.

  • Sex Hormones—An abnormal loss of menstrual periods (which can be caused by the eating disorder anorexia nervosa), low estrogen levels (menopause), and low testosterone in men can lead to osteoporosis.

  • Certain Medications—Long-term use of certain medications can reduce bone mass. Consult with your healthcare professional about the risks and benefits of any medications you are taking.

Changeable risk factors and prevention strategies include:

  • Eating a Nutritious Diet Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D—Maintaining a lifelong, well-balanced diet that includes foods rich in calcium and vitamin D is the best protection against osteoporosis and other bone disorders.

  • Being Physically Active—Physical activity is vital to building and maintaining bone strength and preventing bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises—exercises that force you to work against gravity—are the most effective exercises to prevent osteoporosis. Walking, running, hiking, dancing, and playing tennis are all good weight-bearing exercises. Always consult a healthcare professional before beginning an exercise program.

Our Consequences of an Inactive Lifestyle 3-D Display
depicts osteoporosis as one of multiple consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

  • Not Smoking—Smoking is harmful to the bones as well as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Smoking may interfere with calcium absorption. Also, women who smoke have lower levels of estrogen than nonsmokers and tend to go through menopause earlier.

  • Limiting Alcohol Use—Regularly consuming 2–3 ounces of alcohol per day can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Heavy drinking also can increase fall risk.

How Is Osteoporosis Detected?

The first sign of osteoporosis often is bone loss. Collapsed vertebrae also can result in severe back pain, loss of height, or stooped posture.

Our Osteoporosis of the Spine Model depicts osteoporotic spine
abnormalities, including a vertebral compression fracture and kyphosis.

A healthcare professional may recommend a bone mineral density (BMD) test for older women or after performing a medical assessment. In addition to measuring bone density at the hip and spine, the test can detect low bone density before a fracture occurs, confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis, predict the chance of future fractures, determine rates of bone loss, and monitor the effectiveness of treatment.

How Is Osteoporosis Treated?

Treatment for osteoporosis emphasizes a nutritious diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, appropriate exercise as recommended by a healthcare professional, and fall prevention. In addition, medication may be prescribed for osteoporosis prevention or treatment.

Our Osteoporotic Bone/Healthy Bone Model swivels to show
an osteoporotic bone on one side and a healthy bone on the other.

To learn more about our osteoporosis models for patient and student education, visit our General Health Section.

©2018 Health Edco®