"Osteoporosis is a disease that lowers bone mass and weakens bone tissue,” explains Debra Spatz, DO, an osteopathic orthopedic physician. “While it’s often considered an older person’s disease, it can strike at any age.”
Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle
Dr. Spatz further explains that the most common injuries from the disease include hip, spine and wrist fractures. However, many of the contributing factors to this disease are preventable. For example, Dr. Spatz advises all of her patients to include three servings of dairy each day in their diet.
“Drinking and eating three servings of low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or reduced-fat cheese each day can give your body the calcium and vitamins it needs for strong bones,” she says.
In addition, Dr. Spatz says that exercise can help build and maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises are considered the most beneficial. This type of exercise uses the body’s own weight or gravity as resistance. Some weight-bearing exercises that are recommended for strengthening bones are walking, climbing stairs, running, hiking, and weight lifting.
While exercise and three daily servings of dairy prevent osteoporosis, patients also need to stop smoking and limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine they drink, according to Dr. Spatz. She also says that being underweight increases the risk of osteoporosis.
Although patients can control these factors to prevent the disease, there are uncontrollable factors that add to a patient’s risk for osteoporosis. “A patient’s gender, age and heredity are important elements in assessing his or her level of risk. If the patient is female and her mother had osteoporosis, the risk is very high,” she says.
The threat of osteoporosis in females increases 1.5 times every 10 years after the patient turns 30. Other uncontrollable characteristics that can increase the likelihood of this disease include being diabetic; of European or Asian descent; or a chronic use of steroids.
“There are several ways to treat osteoporosis,” says Dr. Spatz. “ First, I try to help my patients change any unhealthy habits and, in more severe cases, I will prescribe medication.”
To find out if you or someone you know is at risk for osteoporosis, Dr. Spatz recommends visiting your physician and asking about a bone density screening. The most common test for osteoporosis is the DEXA Scan.Ô The test measures the patient’s bone density as compared with that of normal bones for his or her age.
“It is never too early or too late to prevent osteoporosis,” Dr. Spatz says.