Osteoporosis

Is there anyway to reduce the side effects of my osteoporosis drug?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor wants me to take Fosamax for osteoporosis, but the drug gives me heartburn and makes me nauseated. Is there anything I can do to reduce these side effects?

DEAR READER: Fosamax (alendronate) is part of a group of drugs called biphosphonates. Actonel (risedronate) and Boniva (ibandronate) are also in this group. Doctors prescribe biphosphonates to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

Why do people lose height and develop a stooped posture as they get older?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Why do so many people lose height and develop a stooped posture as they get older?

DEAR READER: You may be surprised by the answer. In many older people, loss of height and stooped posture results from fractures of the spine. When you think of a bone fracture, you probably picture a long bone being snapped like a twig, as with a broken arm or leg.

How can I reduce my risk of osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 40s. Both my mother and grandmother had osteoporosis. What can I do now and in the coming decades to reduce my risk?

DEAR READER: All people lose bone as they age. For women, that process starts to accelerate when they enter menopause. One important reason for that is the lower level of estrogen in a woman's body after menopause begins, as estrogen helps to build bone. Osteoporosis is not inevitable, and there's much you can do to shield your bones from this disease.

Can vibration therapy prevent osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard that vibration therapy can help to improve bone density. Can you tell me more about it?

DEAR READER: Our bones are in constant flux, as old bone is broken down and new bone is created. If old bone is broken down faster than new bone is created, low bone density and eventually osteoporosis develops. After menopause, women are more prone than men to develop osteoporosis. One reason is that their natural estrogen levels drop, and estrogen helps preserve bones. Women are advised to stimulate their bones through physical activity, particularly weight-bearing and resistance exercise. That's because stress placed on the bones through activities such as running and weightlifting makes bones denser and stronger. Many drugs are also used to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

Can men get osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Do men need to worry about osteoporosis? Doesn't it affect mostly women?

DEAR READER: Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to breaks. You're correct that women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis, but that doesn't mean men don't have to worry about it. In fact, about 2 million men in the United States have osteoporosis.

Can exercise help prevent osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've read that certain types of exercise help prevent osteoporosis. What types are best? How do they prevent bone loss?

DEAR READER: Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to breaks. Bones are very dynamic. Inside every bone, some cells are laying down new bone and other cells are chewing up old bone. You want these bone-building and bone-destroying forces to always remain about equal, and for most of our young and early adult lives they are.

Can osteoporosis drugs cause fractures?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently read that some osteoporosis drugs can cause fractures. Should I stop taking my osteoporosis medication?

DEAR READER: Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to breaks. It is slowly progressive unless it is halted by treatment. Fortunately, a group of drugs called bisphosphonates have become available to treat osteoporosis.

What is a bone density test?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I just turned 65. At my last medical visit, my doctor said she'd like me to get a bone density test. What is it, and what's involved?

DEAR READER: A bone density test uses specialized X-rays to measure the thickness and strength of your bones. It is also called bone densitometry or a DXA scan. Why measure the thickness of your bones? Adults, particularly women, begin to lose bone thickness around age 50. Thinner bones put you at greater risk for fracture. Besides being painful at the time, fractures (particularly hip fractures) can affect your ability to do the things you want to do.