At Park Avenue Endocrinology & Nutrition, we have extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis. We help manage calcium levels and vitamin D metabolism, and can prescribe medications to reverse or at least slow the patient’s bone loss.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is thinning of the bones, which usually occurs in women and men as they age. At Park Avenue Endocrinology & Nutrition, we have a vast experience in all treatments of osteoporosis, managing calcium and vitamin D metabolism, as well as the ability to prescribe medications that can help reverse or slow the progression of bone loss. Osteoporosis is characterized by a decrease in the bone density.
When a patient has osteoporosis the bones become abnormally porous; they can become compressible, like a sponge. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can break with relatively minor injuries or even movements that would never cause a fracture in a healthy person. In an area such as the hips, osteoporosis can lead to cracking of the hipbone — a hip fracture. In the spine, the bone can collapse, such as in a compression fraction of a vertebra.
Osteoporosis-related fractures can occur in almost any bone in the body, but they are most common in the spine, hips, ribs, and wrists. We also treat parathyroid disease, which is the gland that controls calcium and bone homeostasis in the body.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Our bones are in a constant state of renewal, building new bone and breaking down old bone. This keeps the bones strong. With this ongoing cell turnover, we rebuild most of our skeleton every 10 years. When we’re young, we make more bone than we break down, contributing to our growth and filling out our frame. This process peaks somewhere in our 20s, and then the body loses bone mass faster than it is created.
Here are some common causes of osteoporosis:
- Low estrogen levels in women — Bone loss accelerates after menopause, a time when estrogen levels drop quickly. Women in this stage of life have the highest risk of developing osteoporosis. This can also happen in
young women who stop menstruating, such as overly thin athletes or girls with anorexia.
- Low testosterone in men — Men convert testosterone into estrogen, which preserves bone mass. As men age, their testosterone levels drop.
- Lack of calcium — The bones need calcium to rebuild, but many organs need a constant level of calcium, too. If they don’t have it, the body will steal calcium from the bones. Lack of vitamin D — Vitamin D helps your body absorb and use calcium. Too little leads to weak bones and bone loss.
- Sedentary lifestyle — Use them or lose them. Bones weaken if they aren’t used. Astronauts in weightless space have been shown to suffer bone mass loss. Weight-bearing exercise, however, helps keep your bone cells turning over.
- Other causes — Hormone imbalances, thyroid conditions, smoking, taking certain medications, various medical conditions, and too much alcohol consumption can also lead to osteoporosis.
There aren’t usually any symptoms that you have osteoporosis. But many years of the condition will result in signs such as back pain, a stooped posture, and a loss of height. For many people, the first sign they have the disease is a broken bone, usually in the spine or the hip.
If a person has severe osteoporosis, even “normal” activities such as coughing or sneezing can cause a painful fracture. For some, the pain will subside as the bone heals, but for others the pain will endure.
Most often, people do not realize that they have osteoporosis until they actually break one of their bones. While there tends to be little to no symptoms early on, some may appear as the condition further develops:
- Bent posture
- Height loss
- Back pain due to collapsed vertebra
- Weak bones that easily fracture
Symptoms like these can all lead to serious injuries such as a broken hip after a fall or a spinal compression fracture that can occur just from bending over.
With our treatments at Park Avenue Endocrinology, the goal is to stop bone loss and lower the patient’s chances of fractures. These may include lifestyle changes such as increased exercise levels, quitting smoking, and adding calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods to the diet. There are a variety of medications that may be used to stem bone loss, or to even grow new bone. We are well versed with each of these drugs and how they can help our patients.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
Although bone disease commonly affects those over age 60, other risk factors may also play a role in osteoporosis development:
- Overactive thyroid
- Family history
- Steroid use over a long period
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Low intake of calcium
- Thin stature
How Can I Help Prevent Developing Osteoporosis?
Lifestyle changes can be the most effective means to never developing osteoporosis. These healthy habits will keep your bones healthier.
Exercise. Your bones and muscles love exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are great. Three or four times a week is best. Adding strength and balance exercises will help you avoid falls.
Calcium. Since women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, studies have shown that 1,000 milligrams of calcium is a good daily target for women prior to menopause, 1,200 milligrams a day after menopause. Eat calcium-rich foods such as milk and dairy products, and dark, leafy vegetables. Or you can add a calcium supplement, but there are risks involved.
Vitamin D. Without vitamin D your body can’t absorb calcium. Being out in the sun triggers vitamin D production in your body. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish, milk, and supplements.
Bone Disease Testing
We offer a full range of diagnostic testing at our office including: