Osteoporosis is a bone disease occurring as a result of decreased bone mineral density (BMD), which is the amount of mineral – mostly calcium – deposited in the bones. Because of the high risk of fracture when bones are fragile, osteoporosis may significantly affect life expectancy and quality of life. Hip fracture, in particular, is often fatal in the elderly. Bone density is maximized in childhood up to the age of 18 as long as there is adequate intake of calcium, Vitamin D (either orally or triggered by sunshine) and exercise. From that time forward, bones gradually become less dense. In a sense osteoporosis is a pediatric disease which manifests itself in old age.
- Intake of calcium and Vitamin D in adulthood can delay the onset of osteoporosis, but one can only partially rebuild loss of bone density.
Osteoporosis occurs mostly commonly in women after menopause, but may also develop in men and younger women.
- Up to half of all women and a quarter of men over 50 years old will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
- Follow-up medical management is important to determine if the medications are working, check for side effects, and determine need for tests such as repeat BMD test.
Intake of calcium and Vitamin D along with regular weight bearing exercise in adulthood can delay the onset of osteoporosis.
- For persons over 65 years, the recommended calcium intake is 1500 mg per day, and Vitamin D is 400-600 Units per day.
- Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are needed by almost everyone but the most avid milk drinker and sunbather.
- For persons with osteoporosis or who are at risk for osteoporosis, a physician may recommend greater amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
- Regular weight bearing exercise such as walking and raising arms against gravity increased bone strength and tones the muscles used for balance and movement. Exercise slows loss of bone density and decreases the risk of falling.
- Falls often occur when people trip over loose rugs or objects on the floor, and when they wear loose fitting foot gear such as sandals or flip-flops.
- Falls also occur when a person uses a cane or walker improperly.
- A Life Alert System may be useful for a person at risk for falls and fractures.