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Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones caused by loss of bone mass (also called bone density) and weakening of bone tissue, making bones more likely to break.
Osteoporosis is caused by a change in the normal process of bone breakdown and formation. Throughout your lifetime, old bone is broken down and replaced by new bone. When bone breaks down faster than new bone is formed, bones become fragile, less dense and more likely to break.
Until about age 30, bones are usually larger, stronger and denser because new bone is formed faster than old bone is broken down. Bone breakdown increases during the first few years after menopause and happens faster throughout the postmenopausal years. When breakdown happens faster than formation, bones become fragile and weak.
There are many risk factors for osteoporosis. Some risks you cannot change, and others you can.
Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bone loss has no symptoms. Often, the first sign of osteoporosis is a bone that breaks easily from a strain, bump or fall.
A bone mineral density test (such as a DEXA scan) is the best way to check bone health. The test is painless, like an X-ray, and is done on the hip and spine. The DEXA scan can be used to estimate bone density and strength, diagnose osteoporosis, determine the rate of bone loss and whether prescribed treatments are making bones stronger.
Take these steps to keep your bones strong and healthy:
A diagnosis of osteoporosis can mean making significant lifestyle and dietary changes. It is important to follow the treatment plan prescribed by your primary care provider. Your primary care provider will determine the best treatment for osteoporosis. Regular bone density tests can evaluate the effectiveness of your treatment. Ask your primary care provider for your specific bone density test requirements.
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