Osteoporosis is the progressive loss of bone density. It is often called the ‘silent killer’ because the condition can often go undetected until it is severe and fractures begin to occur. Sadly, if undetected, the degree of bone loss can leave a person disabled and in a great deal of pain. Because it is not a subject that many people think about on a daily basis, this ‘silent thief’ can steal much of the calcium and mineral strength from our bones without our knowing it.
The Calcium Connection
Most commonly a loss in bone density is associated with changes women experience during menopause. The decreased hormone levels affect the calcium balance in the blood resulting in bone mass loss. Hormone replacement therapy is used to treat both symptoms of menopause and the associated osteoporotic changes.
Calcium imbalance can also happen if other endocrine disorders are present in either male or female patients. The endocrine system controls the levels of the hormone calcitonin, which, in turn, affects the level of calcium in the body.
In addition to menopause and endocrine disorders, kidney injuries or malfunction, vitamin deficiencies, and steroid use are also known causes of the disease.
Do I Have Osteoporosis?
Only your physician can determine if you have experienced changes in bone density. Often patients don’t know that they’re at risk, or that they are already affected. Screening tests, similar to low radiation x-rays, are commonly used to scan the heel, the wrists, the spine, or even the whole body to find weakened points or potential hairline fractures.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake
never having given birth
alcohol intake of more than 2 drinks per day
early or surgical menopause without hormone replacement therapy
small or thin frame
history of treatment with steroids, antacids with aluminum, anticonvulsant, or thyroid replacement medications.
If any of these risk factors apply to you, talk to your doctor and consider densitometry to evaluate your bone density. Increasing your calcium intake, ensuring a sufficient intake of critical vitamins and minerals each day, and exercising regularly can help to decrease your risk.