Osteoporosis at a Glance
For the most part, our bodies function on autopilot—and the same goes for our bones: They’re programmed to regenerate themselves, with new bone replacing old. In ideal circumstances, this keeps bone tissue dense and sturdy.
If you have osteoporosis, a condition that affects about 10 million Americans, several things can happen:
- Your body may be losing bone mass too fast.
- Your body may not be making enough new bone fast enough.
- You may not have had enough strong bone to start with.
- Or you may be experiencing a combination of these problems.
The result? Your bones weaken over time, and if left unchecked, something as ordinary as lifting a stuffed grocery bag can cause a fracture. But perhaps the most important osteoporosis fact of all is that it’s a silent disease: Since you can’t see or feel your bones getting weaker, you could have osteoporosis and not even know it.
All too often, people don’t discover they have osteoporosis until bone weakness leads to a fracture, or broken bone—and the result can have long-term effects. In addition to causing pain at the site of the break, fractures may require a lengthy recovery, which can mean time away from work, having to stop your favorite pastimes and needing others to help you perform basic everyday activities. In serious cases, like a hip fracture, you may need surgery, hospitalization and an intense recovery that puts your independence at risk.
Quite a lot! You can start taking steps today to help keep osteoporosis at bay and even reverse bone loss. The first is discovering how strong your bones are right now; building a partnership with your doctor can help you do just that.
Your doctor may recommend a bone mineral density scan, which will shed light on your bone health. She can also help you develop a bone-protecting action plan that may include eating more calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, exercising, taking supplements and possibly osteoporosis medications.