For the media

Can you prevent osteoporosis?

By The Health News Team | May 30, 2023
Senior woman stretching on yoga mat

While Dr. Ehatsham Ahmad, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Community Medical Group and SharpCare Medical Group, admits osteoporosis may not be the most exciting of topics, he does says it’s an important one. “Any individual who values their independence and autonomy and wishes to continue or maintain a high-quality of life should care about understanding osteoporosis,” he says.

According to Dr. Ahmad, osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder in which bones weaken and the risk of bone fracture is increased. Osteoporosis occurs when too much bone mass is lost, most commonly due to a person’s age, sex, body size, race, changes to hormones, diet, medical conditions, medications and lifestyle.

“In the general population, anywhere from 10% to 20% of people over age 50 have osteoporosis,” Dr. Ahmad says. “And it affects 5 times as many women as men.”

Broken bones can have lasting effects, especially as a person ages, when recovery from breaks is more difficult, Dr. Ahmad says. What’s more, some people are unable to recover from broken bones, especially hip breaks, leading to a loss of independence, even life.

Preventing osteoporosis is possible

While osteoporosis can greatly affect your quality of life and lead to early mortality, there are things your doctor can do to help prevent and treat osteoporosis. These include:

  • Screen for osteoporosis.

  • Identify risk factors that place you at risk and address those risk factors.

  • Identify medicines you are currently taking that may predispose you to osteoporosis.

  • Promote strategies to reduce the chance of developing osteoporosis or delay its onset.

  • Treat or modify underlying causes of osteoporosis.

  • Promote strategies for healthy bones and overall health.

“We want to promote lifestyles that maintain dense bones; identify risk factors placing you at risk for osteoporosis; and encourage early, routine screening to identify those who have osteoporosis so we can discuss options for treatment,” Dr. Ahmad says. “Most importantly, we want to prevent fractures, which can cause undue pain and decrease the quality and quantity of your life.”

Addressing your risk factors

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for all women over age 65 and women of any age who have factors — such as advanced age, a history of falls and a family history of osteoporosis — that increase the chance of developing osteoporosis. The most common test for measuring bone mineral density is dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry, also known as a DEXA scan.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Inadequate nutritional absorption due to an unhealthy diet

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Extreme weight loss (for example, due to anorexia nervosa)

  • Chronic use of certain medications

  • Chronic disease, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease

  • Cigarette smoking

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Air pollution

  • Stress

“Prevention involves identifying and addressing your risk factors, especially lifestyle risk factors, and promoting your general wellness via physical activity and good nutrition,” Dr. Ahmad says. “If pain is an issue preventing activity, we can address those issues to help improve your quality of life.”

Work with your doctor to reduce your risk

Dr. Ahmad recommends talking with your doctor about your personal risk for osteoporosis and whether the following prevention tactics might be right for you:

  • Early screening

  • Screening for secondary causes of osteoporosis, such as chronic illness

  • Calcium supplementation

  • Vitamin D supplementation

  • Addressing health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, weight and diet.

  • Fall prevention

  • Medication to promote bone density and address hormonal changes

“Maintain your independence and autonomy as long as you can,” Dr. Ahmad says. “Address any concerns about developing osteoporosis with your doctor now.”

Learn more about women’s health and aging; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.