Most of us have learned the basics of good health. We’re taught to eat nutritious food, get plenty of exercise, maintain our weight and avoid smoking.

But as mindful as we are about blood pressure and cholesterol, many of us don’t give much thought to our bone health. That’s probably why tens of millions of Americans suffer from weak, brittle bones – a condition called osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is mostly preventable. We can adopt and maintain habits that keep our bones healthy and strong. Despite this, the number of people living with osteoporosis is growing.

About Your Bones

Bones seem like lifeless objects, but they are actually made of living tissue.

Our bodies constantly break down old bone tissue and replace it with new tissue. In fact, during childhood and adolescence we produce new bone much faster than we lose it. This helps us achieve strong, dense bones, also known as having high bone mass.

By our mid-twenties, our bones are as strong as they will ever be. After that, our bodies create new bone at a lower rate – and we gradually lose bone mass.

Understanding Osteoporosis

Declining bone mass does not automatically lead to osteoporosis. If you have high bone mass in early adulthood and take steps to keep your bones strong, you can minimize bone loss.

But if your body removes old bone faster than it can replace it, your bones become thinner and weaker. Complications of osteoporosis include:

  • Broken bones. Your bones may become so brittle they snap after a minor bump or fall.
  • Collapsed vertebrae (compression fractures)
  • Loss of height
  • A hunched or stooped posture

Some people are more likely to develop osteoporosis due to factors they cannot control. For example, your risk is higher if you are female, have a family history of the disease and are white or Asian.

On the other hand, you can help prevent osteoporosis by exercising regularly, eating a calcium-rich diet and limiting your alcohol and tobacco use.

Osteoporosis Treatment at Mercy

Whether low bone density puts you at risk for osteoporosis or you’ve already been diagnosed, Mercy’s orthopedic specialists can help. Your treatment plan will help you build bone strength, slow bone loss and prevent broken bones. It may include:

  • Prescription medications including biophosphonates
  • Referrals for support services. You may need help improving your diet or quitting smoking.
  • Orthopedic rehabilitation to help you increase strength and improve balance. Your physical therapist can also teach you how to minimize your fall risk at home and in the community.

Osteoporosis can impact your mobility and independence. But the good news is, it’s not an inevitable part of aging. Together you and your Mercy physician can restore your bone health and reduce your risk of fractures.

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