Osteoporosis can often be a concern in the aging process. After your mid-30s, you begin to slowly lose bone mass. Women lose bone mass faster after menopause, but it happens in men too. This disease impacts the daily lives of those it affects, so in order to prevent trouble for you and your loved ones, it’s wise to learn more about what it is, how it affects the body and what treatments are available.


What is osteoporosis? 

Ten million Americans have osteoporosis. Osteo means bone, and porosis means full of holes; so osteoporosis means bones that are full of holes. 

A common misconception about bones is that they are hard and lifeless. In reality, your bones are living tissues that break down and rebuild over a period of 90 days in a process called remodeling. If your bones break down faster than they rebuild, your bone density is lowered, and you are at risk for fractures more easily. 

Osteoporosis is a serious disease that usually shows no symptoms until a fracture occurs. By that point, you have probably lost a significant amount of bone and even routine activities such as lifting a bag of groceries or turning over in bed can cause a fracture. The most common injuries suffered are breaks in the wrist, spine and hip. 

Osteopenia, or low bone mass, is another condition that affects 34 million Americans. If your doctor diagnoses you with osteopenia, take action immediately to slow or prevent bone loss.  

Who should get a bone density test? 

A bone density test must be ordered by your doctor. It takes 10-20 minutes on average and is painless, noninvasive and safe. The National Institute on Aging says the people at the greatest risk are those who: 

  • have a family history of broken bones or osteoporosis
  • have broken a bone while an adult
  • had surgery to remove their ovaries before their periods stopped
  • had early menopause
  • have not gotten enough calcium throughout their lives
  • had extended bed rest
  • used certain medicines for a long time
  • have a small body frame

How can we prevent osteoporosis? 

It is never too early or late to improve your bone health. To keep a healthy bone density, make sure to have an active lifestyle with regular exercise, consume enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet and maintain a healthy body weight. 

The recommended daily dose of calcium for people aged 50 and older is 1200 mg per day and 800 mg per day of vitamin D is recommended. Before starting any supplements, or if you are lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor about the best solutions for you. 

Other ways you can slow bone loss are to limit alcohol, caffeine and smoking. Studies show smoking lowers estrogen levels and can lead to early menopause, while alcohol directly slows down bone formation. Caffeine increases the calcium excreted in the urine. No more than 2-3 cups of caffeinated beverages per day are recommended. 

Can we treat osteoporosis? 

Yes! There are many medications available that either slow bone loss or help rebuild bone. Talk to your doctor to see if one of the medicines available might work for you. 

If you have questions about your healthcare needs, call 1.866.KINDRED to speak with one of our Registered Nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By Blair Klayko