Boston-OsteoporosisMany people think of their skeletal system as an unchanging object, but bones are actually made up of living tissue. Old bone cells are broken down and replaced by new bone constantly. However, sometimes the process of making new bone cells starts to slow down, and the rate of cell removal begins to outpace the rate of cell growth. This can lead to a condition called osteoporosis that causes fragile, brittle bones.

Types of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is divided into four basic types based on the underlying cause of the osteoporosis. Primary osteoporosis is the most common type of osteoporosis, and it is caused by a natural slowing down of bone growth as people age. Most people reach a peak bone mass around the age of 30, and after that, their body slowly starts to produce less and less new bone growth. Since the bones continue to break down older cells, osteoporosis gradually sets in. Primary osteoporosis is further divided into two types. Type 1 happens when women reach menopause around the age of 50, and the slowed production of estrogen makes bone cells break down at a faster rate. Type 2 primary osteoporosis affects seniors of both genders around the age of 60 or older.

The three other types of osteoporosis are less common. Secondary osteoporosis happens due to a medical condition, such as leukemia or hyperthyroidism, and it can also be caused by taking certain medications. Osteogenesis imperfecta is a type of osteoporosis that is congenital and happens for no reason, and idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis is another rare type of osteoporosis that happens around the age of 8. Both osteogenesis imperfecta and idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis cannot be prevented, and they cause bones to break randomly.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
In early stages of types of progressive osteoporosis, there may be no symptoms of slightly weakened bones. Seniors often do not realize that they have primary or secondary osteoporosis until they break a bone after a minor accident such as bumping into a counter or tripping. However, there are a few subtle warning signs that a person may be in the first stages of osteoporosis. As the bones of the spine become weakened, a senior may start to stoop over or lose height due to compressed vertebra. They may also feel mild back pain if a vertebra has fractured without them being aware of it. Though it is not caused by osteoporosis, low calcium and vitamin D levels can also be a sign that a senior may have osteoporosis. If a senior is concerned about the possibility of osteoporosis, they can talk to their doctor about doing a bone mineral density test to screen for osteoporosis.

Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis
Fortunately, it is quite easy to prevent osteoporosis from happening. Since seniors, especially women over the age of 65, have such a high risk of osteoporosis, they should take preventative measures to avoid losing bone density. Both tobacco use and alcohol consumption can increase the rate of bone density loss, so seniors should avoid using tobacco or drinking more than two alcoholic beverages per day. Bone density is closely linked to ingested nutrients, so seniors should make sure that they are getting at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D daily. Women can take estrogen supplements to help reduce their risk of type 1 primary osteoporosis. Exercise also helps to prevent bone cell loss, and exercises that require weight bearing, such as walking, weight-lifting, or running, are very beneficial at osteoporosis prevention.