Osteoporosis Prevention & Treatment (cont.)


Osteoporosis is a bone disorder featuring progressive loss of bone tissue and bone mass leading to weakening of bone. Normal bone tissue is made of protein (called collagen) and calcium salts. The osteoporosis process depletes both the calcium salts and the protein from the bone. The weakened bone is more prone to breakage (fracture), either by cracking or collapsing (compression). In patients with osteoporosis, bone fractures can occur from minor falls or injuries that normally would not cause a bone fracture. Bones that commonly break in patients with osteoporosis include the spine, hips and the wrists.

Even though osteoporosis can affect both men and women, it is most common among postmenopausal women. The female hormone, estrogen, is important for the preservation of bone mass. Inadequate estrogen during menopause causes accelerated bone loss. Without effective prevention, a woman can lose 20%-30% of her bone mass during the first 10 years of menopause. The osteoporosis process can operate silently for decades. These women may not be aware of their weakened bones until suffering a painful fracture.

Over 20 million people have osteoporosis in the United States, and approximately 1.3 million people each year will suffer a bone fracture as a result of osteoporosis. In 1993, the United States incurred an estimated loss of 10 billion dollars due to loss of productivity and health care costs related to osteoporosis.

The goal of osteoporosis treatment is to prevent bone fractures by 1) stopping bone loss, and 2) by increasing bone mass and strength.

The prevention and treatment of osteoporosis involves programs which include a nutritious diet, cessation of cigarette smoking, curtailing of alcohol consumption, regular exercise, adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, estrogen replacement or raloxifene (Evista) treatment in postmenopausal women, and medications (such as aledronate, etidronate, or calcitonin) that decrease breakdown (resorption) of bone. Medications that decrease bone breakdown or resorption are also called antiresorptive agents