Does your love one have osteoporosis? Here are some ways you can help him or her to live a fuller life.

First, understand the disease itself. Osteoporosis causes bones to become fragile because the amount of calcium dramatically decreases. It’s common for the disease to progress painlessly and undiagnosed, until a small or unlikely event causes a broken bone. Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, although fractures most frequently occur in the hip, spine, and wrist. The disease generally affects women more than men. According to MSN Health MD, between 25 percent and 60 percent of women over 60 years old develop spinal cord fractures. The percentage increases with age.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, hip and spine fractures are especially frustrating because they almost always require hospitalization and major surgery. If left untreated, these kinds of injuries will cause permanent damage or death.

For these reasons, you should encourage your loved one to obtain adequate calcium and vitamin D, and to do exercises ensuring bone health. Medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis include estrogens, alendronate, risedronate, and raloxifene.

These medications are classified as anti-resorptive medications because they affect the bone remodeling cycle in the bone resorption phase (as opposed to the bone formation stage). When osteoporosis is present, the balance between this resorption and the other half of the cycle, bone formation, is not stable. This causes bone loss to occur. Anti-resorptive medications slow the resorption phase, allowing the bone formation stage to continue unhindered. This results in greater bone density.

This means that, regardless of your loved one’s age, it’s vital he or she get enough calcium, vitamin D, and exercise. Additional ways your loved one can prevent or reduce the effects of osteoporosis include:

  • Stop smoking (especially women who have gone through menopause)
  • Stop drinking two or more cups of coffee a day. Note that this does not include other caffinated beverages.
  • Keep your weight within healthy limits for your height. Underweight individuals are especially at risk for osteoporosis.
  • Obtain treatment for depression. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol has been linked to osteoporosis in depressed patients.
  • Make sure you understand the side effects of long-term medications
  • Get sunlight. It builds levels of vitamin D
  • Review the family history for indicators of osteoporosis.
  • Understand the risks for women, elderly, or those predisposed to osteoporosis because of an existing condition such as alcoholism, hyperthyroidism, chronic liver disease, scurvy, rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia, lymphoma, gastrointestinal disease, and rare genetic disorders.

You might want to join your loved one in modifying a diet and exercise routine to protect yourself from osteoporosis.

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