We can't feel our bones getting stronger, nor can we feel them getting weaker. In fact, osteoporosis is a silent disease until it is complicated by fractures that can occur following minimal trauma. The impact that bone loss and subsequent fractures can ultimately have on our quality of life once we’ve developed osteoporosis is significant.
There are many risk factors that contribute to developing osteoporosis. There are some factors that you cannot change. But there are others that you can control.
Factors you cannot change that increase your risk:
Factors you can change to reduce your risk:
There are tests that use either x-rays or sound waves to measure bone density. These tests are painless. Ask your doctor if you should be tested.
There is no way to cure osteoporosis. There are things you can do to slow it down. Talk to your doctor to make a plan to keep your bones healthy.
There are prescription medicines that you can take. These medicines come as a pill, a patch or a shot (injection). Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before you stop taking your medicine.
Dietary supplements are products that people add to their diets. They include vitamins, powders, energy bars and herbs. Talk to your doctor before you take any dietary supplements. These may affect your other medicines and make you sick.
Strong bones and muscles help you to maintain strength as you age. They also help to prevent falls. There are many exercises to build bones and strengthen muscles, including:
If your bones are porous, a simple fall could cause a fracture.
A few precautions can help to prevent falls:
There are lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk for osteoporosis.
Stay physically active. Do weight bearing exercise like walking.
Brush your teeth after eating. Floss every day. See your dentist for routine checkups. We all know the drill. But did you know that women in mid-life may be especially prone to gum disease, which can have an effect on their bone health?
While three out of four adults are affected by gum disease at some point in their lives, women are especially at risk because of life-long hormone changes. Menopausal and postmenopausal women produce less saliva, which can lead to dry mouth. Untreated, dry mouth can lead to cavities. Also, many medications can cause dry mouth and other dental side effects. Some diseases, like diabetes, increase the risk of gum disease.
Smoking also increases the risk of gum disease. Gum disease and tooth decay take a serious toll. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-fourth of adults over age 65 have lost all their teeth.
Research also suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. The bone in the jaw supports and anchors the teeth. When the jawbone becomes less dense, tooth loss can occur, a common occurrence in older adults. Tooth loss affects approximately one-third of adults age 65 and older. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease.
Low bone density in the jaw can result in other dental problems as well. For example, older women with osteoporosis may be more likely to have difficulty with loose or ill-fitting dentures and may have less optimal outcomes from oral surgical procedures.
Most oral and tooth disease is preventable. Keep your mouth healthy with regular brushing, flossing, and eating healthy foods. If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean before wearing. See your dentist if you notice loose teeth, bleeding during brushing, red and swollen gums, or any other unusual changes.
During a physical exam, you should be checked to see if you lost height, weight or have back pain. After the age of 50, it is extremely important to be tested for your height to help determine bone loss.
Bone density tests measure your bone mass to determine if your bones are thinning.
There are several types of bone density tests. Some tests measure bone density in the hips, spine and total body. Other tests measure bone density in the lower arm, finger, wrist, kneecap, shinbone and heel.
With information from a bone density test, you and your health care provider can decide what prevention or treatment steps are best for you. Depending on your age and risk factors, ask your provider if you should consider a bone density test.
At Allegheny Health Network, we offer Bone Density Mineral (BMD) tests to:
Your healthcare provider will determine if you are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis and recommend a screening test.