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Posted Date: 6/2/2014
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Osteoporosis is a disease that causes rapid thinning of bones. Over time, this weakens the bones and can make them more likely to break. About 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and 80 percent of them are women, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) says. About 34 million more have below-normal bone density that hasn't reached the level of osteoporosis. Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, in part because men have larger, stronger bones.

Both men and women older than age 50 are at the greatest risk for developing osteoporosis, the NOF says. One in two women and one in four men in this age group will fracture a bone because of osteoporosis. Ethnicity may also play a role; Research indicates individuals who are Caucasian or Asian may be more likely to develop osteoporosis than people who are Hispanic or African-American.

Besides older age and ethnic background, these are risks factors that may increase your chances for developing osteoporosis:

• Small bone structure
• Family history of osteoporosis
• Previous facture, especially after age 50
• Being postmenopausal
• Anorexia nervosa
• Cigarette smoking
• Alcohol abuse
• Not getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Certain medications, including glucocorticoids, thyroid hormone replacement, and epilepsy drugs

Many people are unaware they have osteoporosis until they have advanced symptoms, which may include a broken hip or wrist, low back pain, or a hunched back.

Diagnosing Osteoporosis

Your doctor can help you determine your risk of developing osteoporosis by taking your personal and family medical history, and by performing a bone density test or bone mass measurement.

What is a Bone Density Test?

A bone density test, also known as bone mass measurement or bone mineral density test, measures the strength and density of your bones as you approach menopause and, when the test is repeated sometime later, can help determine how quickly you are losing bone mass and density. These tests are painless, noninvasive, and safe. They compare your bone density with standards for what is expected in someone of your age, gender, and size, and to the optimal peak bone density of a healthy young adult of the same gender. Bone density testing can help to:

• Detect low bone density before a fracture occurs.

• Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis if you have already fractured.

• Predict your chances of fracturing in the future.

• Determine your rate of bone loss and/or monitor the effects of treatment if the test is conducted at intervals of a year or more.
Bone density scans are performed at RUMC’s Women’s Comprehensive Center at 4434 Amboy Road. For more information or to schedule a bone density test, please call 718-984-9637.

• Do regular weight-bearing exercise. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, playing racquet sports, and hiking. If you've been sedentary, be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
• Take calcium and vitamin D. People older than age 50 should get 1,200 mg of calcium per day. If you have difficulty getting enough calcium from foods, take a supplement to make up the difference. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. A daily intake of 800–1000 IUs is recommended. Fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish, and liver are high in the vitamin.
• Don't smoke.
• Don't drink alcohol in excess.