Getting diagnosed with osteoporosis isn’t like getting the flu. You can’t just curl up with a blanket and some chicken soup, take a few days off work and let the virus run its course. Osteoporosis is a disease that stays with you for the rest of your life.
If you have osteoporosis, it’s normal to want to put the problem behind you and get on with your daily lifestyle. But it’s also important to remember that osteoporosis is a chronic disease that may require chronic treatment. It means making long-term changes to your diet and lifestyle in order to strengthen your bones and prevent fractures and their potentially debilitating effects. You may also have to take medication to treat the illness for the foreseeable future.
Here’s why: Bone is a living tissue that is constantly regenerating. There are certain cells in your body that remove old bone; and others that build new bone—this ongoing process is what helps keep your bones strong. By your 30’s, the amount of new bone you generate is usually less than the old bone tissue that you lose through the normal aging process, so your bones begin to lose density and become weaker. To learn more about how osteoporosis can affect your bones, click here.
What to Do if You Are at Risk
One of the main risk factors for osteoporosis is age – women over 50 and men over 65 should speak to their doctor to get assessed and tested. Post-menopausal women are especially at risk, as they lose bone density after reaching menopause. A family history of hip fractures, smoking, being thin/small-boned and taking certain medications may also put you at increased risk for osteoporosis.
There is no cure for osteoporosis. And while lifestyle changes – like adjusting your diet to include more calcium and Vitamin D-rich foods, as well as weight-bearing exercise – can help reduce your risk of being impacted by it the most important thing in managing this potentially debilitating disease is getting onto the right treatment plan.
Like all medicines, those for osteoporosis come with both benefits and risks, and these should always be considered prior to initiating therapy. Consult your physician to find out which treatment options are available, and which may be best for you and your lifestyle.
There are a number of options, including oral pills taken daily, weekly or monthly, and an injectable medication received once every 6 months.
If diagnosed, your doctor can help you understand the chronic nature of the disease and your long-term treatment options. In a large clinical study for one of these treatments, postmenopausal women with osteoporosis continued to show gains in bone mineral density with a fracture risk reduction over ten years of treatment.
If you have suffered a fracture or think that you may be at risk of osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about having a 10-year fracture risk assessment.
Osteoporosis is a disease you’ll have for the rest of your life, so make sure you’re taking measures to ensure your life is as healthy and enjoyable as possible.