Osteoporosis, the silent disease

Until recently, there was no way to know if you had osteoporosis until you experienced a bone fracture - usually in the hip or wrist.  Often called the "silent" disease because there are no tell-tale symptoms, osteoporosis causes the bones to become thin and porous enough to break.  Now there is a test called Duel Energy X-ray Absorpitiometry that can determine body density and diagnose osteoporosis at its earliest stages.  But that doesn't mean that everyone needs to be tested.

If you are postmenopausal, you should speak to your doctor about your risk for developing osteoporosis.  Even though more white and Asian women suffer from the disease, African-American and Hispanic women are certainly not immune.  Too little calcium in your diet, not enough exercise, smoking, drinking, and taking steroid medications can all increase your risk.

The good news is that there's a lot you can do to prevent the onset of illness.  Building strong bones while you're young, exercising, and having a healthy lifestyle are the best defense against developing osteoporosis.  Here are some steps you can take:

  • Increase your calcium intake.
    Calcium is essential to prevent bone loss.
    Try adding milk to soups and hot cereal, include
    cheese in your sandwich or casserole, and for
    dessert, enjoy a custard or pudding.

  • Exercise
    Weight-bearing exercises that force you to work
    against gravity, such as walking, jogging, stair climbing,
    and racket sports, can help you build strong bones.

  • Estrogen replacement therapy
    If you have reached menopause, your doctor may
    prescribe estrogen to prevent you from developing
    osteoporosis.  But you'll still need extra calcium to
    boost the hormones effectiveness.

  • Seek medical advice
    Many women confuse osteoporosis with arthritis,
    waiting for swollen joints and other painful symptoms
    to appear before going to the doctor.  This disease
    does not have warning signs; let your doctor make the diagnosis.

For more information or to order a free brochure published by the
National Osteoporosis Foundation,
call 1-800-223-9994

For more information about University Hospital of Brooklyn
and its services, please call (718) 270-4762

For a referral to a Health Science Center at Brooklyn physician,
please call toll free 1-888-270-SUNY