Osteoporosis--It's More Likely Than
Part 1 of 4
IT TURNS OUT that we were
wrong to accept osteoporosis as a part of aging. New medications can slow and even reverse
the disease. The key to preventing further bone breakdown is finding out you need such
Osteoporosis leads to weakened bones and increased susceptibility to fractures of the
hip, spine and wrist. Its main cause in postmenopausal women is a decline in estrogen,
which can be dramatic--2% to 8% per year.
In the U.S. today, more than ten million Americans have osteoporosis. Another 18
million are at considerable risk. The dollar cost of this disease annually is currently
Each year more than a million fractures are attributed to osteoporosis. One quarter of
these breaks are hip fractures, comprising the twelfth greatest cause of death in
postmenopausal women. Annually nearly 50,000 hip fracture patients die from complications,
usually due to blood clots that develop after hip replacement surgery.
With that astonishing fact, it's easy to panic when learning you have osteoporosis. The
diagnosis implies that since the bone damage is done, it's too late to get help. Today
this is not always the case. It is never too late to start taking medication to mend your
bones. Whatever your age, you can begin now to improve your bone health for the rest of
your life. Otherwise, the threat of this disease is like a walking time bomb.
We don't think of osteoporosis as a men's problem, but it can be. They have two
advantages that protect them. Men do not undergo menopause. They also begin from a better
standpoint: As youngsters, males generally produce more bone mass than females do.
Our bones normally regenerate. They are living tissues, much like skin. The
reabsorption cycle consists of eating away the old and regenerating new. The cycle
continues after menopause, but while the bones are being eaten away, they are replaced ten
times slower after postmenopause.
Calcium is crucial to bone regeneration. The body will get its needed calcium one way
or another. When we do not supply our bodies with adequate calcium, the body leeches this
mineral from our bones.
As bone density decreases, the weakened bones--most commonly the wrist, hip, and
spine--can break easily. Compression fractures in the spine, another result of
osteoporosis, may cause back pain, hump-back (Dowager hump), height loss, and curvature of
Osteoporosis's destruction is similar to that of termite-ridden wood. You don't see the
damage coming. Called a silent disease, osteoporosis has no outward symptoms. The person
is unaware of the damage taking place until a fracture occurs. And this may be triggered
simply by stepping off a curb the wrong way.