Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break (fractures). Today, approximately 44 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass. "Osteoporosis now causes an estimated two million fractures each year and often results in immobility, pain, placement in a nursing home, isolation and other health problems -- conditions and circumstances that could largely be prevented through proper bone density testing and diagnosis," said Robert Recker, M.D., president of the National Osteoporosis Foundation (Access to Osteoporosis…, 2009, para. 8).

If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. Your body normally makes new bone as old bone is reabsorbed (broken down). Osteoporosis occurs when your body reabsorbs more bone than it makes, causing a loss of bone mass (amount of bone). Some loss of bone mass is normal as people age, especially for women after menopause. Bone loss can also be caused by other factors. Some of these factors include genetics (inherited from family), medicines such as steroids, or not eating enough calcium-rich foods (Calcium and osteoporosis, 2008 ).

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to prevent, slow, or stop its progress. In some cases you may even be able to improve bone density and reverse the disorder to some degree (Osteoporosis what is it?, 2008).

Preventive Health Study

A preventive health program identified three million patients of the Kaiser Permanente Group of California at risk for osteoporosis. The program involved screening, and provided treatment for the disease, significantly reducing the overall incidence of hip fracture by 37% over five years, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

in 2009 (Boughton, 2009 ).

Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention

Eat Right: Get your daily recommended amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D Adults under age 50 need 1,000 mg of calcium daily, and adults age 50 and over need 1,200 mg of calcium daily. Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium. Adults under age 50 need 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily, and adults age 50 and over need 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D daily (Osteoporosis what is it?, 2008).

The nutrients strontium and vitamin K2 are effective additions to calcium and vitamin D supplementation for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. Any nontoxic strontium salt (not radioactive strontium-90) can strengthen bone, according to Jonathan V. Wright, MD (Strontium, vitamin K2 ..., 2009).

Exercise: Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle strengthening exercise. The best exercise for your bones is weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, racquet sports and hiking.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation. Drinking alcohol in excess (more than two drinks per day) may cause bone loss.

Get Tested: Have a bone density test and take medication when appropriate. A Bone

Mineral Density test (BMD) is the only way to diagnose osteoporosis and determine your risk for future fracture. Since osteoporosis can develop undetected for decades until a fracture occurs, early diagnosis is important (Osteoporosis what is it?, 2008).

Bone density scanning, also called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bone densitometry, is an enhanced form of x-ray technology that is used to measure bone loss. DXA is today's established standard for measuring bone mineral density BMD (Bone density…, 2008).

Medications for Prevention and Treatment

To prevent and treat osteoporosis, the FDA has approved medications to slow or stop bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. Bone continuously renews and changes through a process called remodeling.

Bisphosphonates, calcitonin, estrogen and estrogen agonists/antagonists are antiresorptive medications. They slow the bone loss that occurs in the breakdown part of the remodeling cycle. When people…