Expert Advise For The Best Osteoporosis Treatment For You

Your bones reach their fullest mass early in adulthood, but they continue to break down and renew themselves throughout your entire life. Osteoporosis is when bone loss outpaces new bone formation. Receiving a diagnosis of osteoporosis can be a shock, and accepting it is no easy task. However, there are several options for osteoporosis treatment that can help slow down or even reverse bone loss.

Proper diet and exercise during childhood and adolescence can help ensure your bones reach a strong and healthy peak density. This allows your skeletal structure to remain strong and able to support your body even with some bone loss. Certain lifestyle choices, medical conditions, and treatments can increase your chances of losing bone mass as you age.

What to Do after an Osteoporosis Diagnosis

Doctor writing on patients medical records

The first thing you need to do after hearing you have osteoporosis is take a deep breath, tamp down your panic, and remain calm. There are several new osteoporosis treatment options, and adjustments to your lifestyle can have a big impact on the progression of your condition.

Take an Honest Assessment

Take a long look at your lifestyle. You might even want to keep a food and activity journal for a week or two. A realistic and honest assessment of lifestyle choices and habits can provide insight into environmental contributors to your bone loss. They can also give you a good starting point for managing the symptoms and progression of your osteoporosis.

Make a list of habits you have, both good and bad ones. This is not the time to fudge about how many drinks you have each week, or if you usually forget to take daily supplements. Be absolutely honest about your choices and habits. If you have a glass of wine with dinner every night, write that down. If you are a 2-pack a day smoker, put that down too. If you walk three miles on the treadmill every afternoon, give yourself a pat on the back and write that on your list as well.

Talk to Your Doctor

Find a doctor you like and are comfortable with. This is your new partner in dealing with your diagnosis, so make sure you pick a person you can talk to easily, and who is willing to listen to your concerns and take time to answer your questions. The list you made based on your lifestyle choices and habits should go with you the next time you visit your doctor. You may find that small changes can have a big impact, so don’t leave anything out when talking to them.

Ways You Can Help Manage Osteoporosis

man trying to walk to improve bone health

This is the time to focus on bone health, not bone loss. Lean on your doctor for advice and support and remember to check with them before you begin any new exercise program. Ask questions about supplements and medications and make sure you tell your doctor about any new vitamins or herbal treatments you are considering.

Healthy Eating

You can improve your eating habits without drastic changes. A well-balanced diet will include plenty of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from whole food sources. Use supplements with guidance from your doctor to make up for what your diet isn’t providing.

Staying Active

Increasing your level of physical activity is a change you can make right away. Experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day to maintain your health. Upping your activity levels can increase bone and muscle strength, plus it will boost your mood at the same time.  

Kick the Habit

If you are a smoker, consider giving up the habit. Cigarette smoking reduces your body’s ability to absorb calcium, leading to weaker bone structure. It has been linked to an increased risk of bone fractures and slower healing processes after injuries.

Picking the Right Osteoporosis Treatment

Your osteoporosis treatment plan will likely be multi-pronged. It might include medication and suitable exercise. Maybe you’ll be advised to quit smoking. There are so many options for treatment and symptom management that there is no universal osteoporosis treatment plan. These are some of the things you should consider when developing your own osteoporosis treatment plan with your doctor.

Sex

Your biological sex can determine if some medications are right for you. Certain medications are suitable for only women while others are ok for men as well.

General Health and Medical History

As nice as it would be to manage your osteoporosis in a vacuum, independent from other health factors, that is not very realistic. Your overall health, and any other diseases or conditions that affect it, will influence what treatment plan you and your doctor design. Some treatment options can increase your risk for complications, so a complete medical history is an absolute necessity before making any treatment decisions.

Age

Your age can also determine what osteoporosis treatment options are best. Some medications are recommended for younger post-menopausal women, while others are best suited for much older adults. Younger, pre-menopausal women may benefit from osteoporosis medication if they have significant bone loss from an underlying condition or prolonged use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids.

Personal Preferences

Osteoporosis medications come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Dosage frequencies, delivery methods, and treatment location can vary widely. If you are OK going to the doctor once a year for an IV treatment, that might be a consideration. Someone who is terrified of needles is probably going to opt for pills over at-home injections. This goes back to the no one size fits all approach. Find a treatment plan that will work for your personal preferences and lifestyle.

Level of Bone Loss

A major consideration is how much bone you have lost. Extreme bone loss may warrant more aggressive treatment than mild cases. Your bone density scans can provide this information. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if you need help understanding the results.  

Cost

Right or wrong, the rising cost of medication can impact your osteoporosis treatment choices. Check with your insurance company to see what they cover before making any treatment decisions. Also look at the expense of travel and missed work if you will need to have treatments at a doctor’s office instead of at home.

Types of Available Medications

taking on prescription medication

Bisphosphonate Drugs

These are the most common type of pharmaceutical-based osteoporosis treatment. They work by slowing the rate of bone loss and come as pills and IV solutions. You can generally take bisphosphonate drugs safely for several years, and should have your bone density and medication levels checked regularly by your doctor. Some common bisphosphonate drugs are Alendronate (Fosamax), Risedronate (Actonel), Zoledronic acid (Reclast), and Ibandronate (Boniva).

Side effects of pill versions of bisphosphonates often include nausea and other gastrointestinal discomfort. Intravenous treatments can cause fever, headaches, and muscle soreness for a few days. In some cases, people taking these drugs for long periods of time may be more likely to experience certain types of fractures, especially of the femur.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy can be effective in treating osteoporosis. There are several types of hormone treatments available, and most are used for advanced cases of osteoporosis.

Parathyroid hormone is an osteoporosis treatment that can stimulate new bone growth. Teriparatide (Forteo) and abaloparatide (Tymlos) are two currently available parathyroid hormones. They are at-home injections which must be given daily for two years and are prescribed in cases of extreme bone loss.

Estrogen replacement is another hormone treatment option used in women who are post-menopausal. Because it has several serious side effects, including increased risk of blood clots, stroke, and breast cancer, the use of estrogen is generally suggested in very small doses for short periods of time.  

Calcitonin (Miacalcin) is another type of hormone therapy that has been shown to reduce the risk of spinal fractures. It is taken as a spray and does not help with any bones other than the spine. Calcitonin is only for women who are at least 5-years post-menopausal.

Selective Estrogen Receptor Modules (SERMs)

These act much like estrogen in treating osteoporosis, without some of the more serious side effects. There are still risks to using SERMs, so be sure to discuss your entire medical history with your doctor before making any decisions.  

Denosumab

This class of drug is used in situations where there is a high risk of fracture, or where bisphosphonates either didn’t work or couldn’t be used. It is given as an injection, and can cause reduced calcium levels as well as increased risks of infection.

Conclusion

image of an osteoporosis or bone loss

Just as your doctor is your partner in learning to live with your diagnosis, you will need a supporting cast to make sure you maintain your bone health and adjust to your osteoporosis treatment. Ask questions and get information from trusted and reliable sources before you make any decisions.

Osteoporosis treatment options include hormone therapy, bisphosphonate drugs, denosumab, and SERMs. Depending on the severity of your bone loss, you may not need a prescription treatment. Basic lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your bone health. Remember to check with your doctor before taking any supplements or starting a new exercise program just to be safe.