Get the Facts on Osteoporosis
When you think about staying healthy, you probably think about making lifestyle changes to prevent conditions like cancer and heart disease. Keeping your bones healthy to prevent osteoporosis may not be at the top of your wellness list. But it should be. Here’s why:
- Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become weak and can break more easily. In serious cases, something as simple as a sneeze can cause a bone to break. About 10 million Americans already have the disease. About 34 million are at risk. Being at risk for osteoporosis means you are more likely to get this disease. Estimates suggest that about half of all women older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Up to one in four men will too.
- Breaking a bone is serious, especially when you’re older. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine and wrist, but other bones can break too. Broken bones can cause severe pain that may not go away. Some people lose height and become shorter. It can also affect your posture, causing you to become stooped or hunched. This happens when the bones of the spine, called vertebrae, begin to break or collapse.
- Osteoporosis may even keep you from getting around easily and doing the things you enjoy. This can make you feel isolated and depressed. It can also lead to other health problems. Twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from problems related to the broken bone itself or surgery to repair it. Many of those who survive need long-term nursing home care.
- You can’t feel your bones becoming weaker. You could have osteoporosis now or be at risk for it without realizing it. Often, breaking a bone is the first clue that you have osteoporosis.
- Or, maybe you notice that you are getting shorter or your upper back is curving forward. At this point the disease may be advanced. Fortunately, a bone mineral density test can tell if you have osteoporosis before you have these symptoms. This makes it possible to treat the disease early to prevent broken bones.
- There are many things to think about when choosing the right osteoporosis medicine for you. You and your healthcare provider may want to look at:
- Your sex. Calcitonin (Fortical® and Miacalcin®), denosumab (ProliaTM), estrogen and hormone therapies, and estrogen agonists/antagonists (Evista®) are only approved for women. Some bisphosphonates (Actonel®, Fosamax® and Reclast®) and teriparatide (Forteo®) are approved for both men and women.
- Your age. Some medicines may be more appropriate for younger postmenopausal women while others are more appropriate for older women.
- If you have not reached menopause. In general, osteoporosis medicines are not recommended for premenopausal women. Certain osteoporosis medicines are approved for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis in premenopausal women as a result of the long-term use of steroid medicines.
- How severe your osteoporosis is. Osteoporosis medicines work in different ways. A person with more severe bone loss or a broken bone may take a different medicine than a person with less bone loss.
- Other health problems you may have. Your healthcare provider will consider other health problems you have when recommending a medicine. If you have had breast cancer or blood clots, for example, you should not take estrogen. Also, if your bones have been exposed to radiation treatment, you should not take teriparatide (Forteo®).
- Personal preference. Do you prefer a pill, liquid or IV medicine or one that is given as a nasal spray or an injection? Does it work better for you to take your medicine every day, once a week, once a month, several times a year or even once a year? Do you have negative feelings about a particular drug? Any of these factors could influence your treatment decision. It’s also important to keep in mind that no two people are the same. How well a medicine works, or what side effects it will have, can vary from one person to the next.