Simple steps can help prevent osteoporosis, a symptom-free disease

Osteoporosis is a bone disease affecting nearly 10 million people in America, including about 8 million women. Because it is a “silent” disease, most people are unaware of it until a fracture occurs.

“In 2005 more than 2 million fractures, mainly of the hip, cost $17 billion to care for. By 2025, both of those numbers are expected to rise even higher. Prevention is key,” says Dr. Khashayar Sakhaee, chief of the mineral metabolism division at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

It most often affects postmenopausal women who undergo a dramatic drop in estrogen – a hormone that assists in the absorption of calcium and prevents calcium loss from the bone. However, it can affect anyone with a hormone imbalance, including men who have been treated for prostate cancer.

Proven osteoporosis risk factors include race (Caucasians have 50 percent to 60 percent more risk), family history of the disease, lack of exercise, low body weight, and smoking. Patients who take high dosages of corticosteroids are also more susceptible to fragile bones.

Bone tissue naturally replenishes itself in a dynamic process of restoration and formation. In osteoporosis patients, however, the loss of bone outweighs the production of new material, resulting in more fragile bones.

Dr. Sakhaee recommends a few simple steps to help prevent development and progression of the disease:

  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet rich with vegetables, fruits, and sources of dairy.
  • Postmenopausal women and everyone older than 70 should get 1,200 mg of calcium every day through diet or supplements. The best source of calcium is always dairy products – just one 8-ounce glass of milk includes 800 mg of calcium, and one slice of cheese and a single serving of yogurt both have about 200 to 300 mg of calcium.
  • Vitamin D is another important source of bone health. Postmenopausal women and people over 70 years of age should get 1,000 units of vitamin D each day.
  • At age 50, all women should ask their physicians for a bone-density test. This test determines the level of risk of bone fractures, and can provide helpful information on the presence of osteoporosis and, if detected, treatments to slow its progression.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/departments/internal-medicine/index.html to learn more about internal medicine, including mineral metabolism’s clinical services for osteoporosis.

Media Contact: Remekca Owens

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