Bone and Joint Health

Healthy Bones for a Healthy Life: Do You Need Bone Density Medications?

People suffer bone-related injuries thanks to a process called remodeling, which is when your body continually grows new bone tissue while reabsorbing worn out skeletal material. When this system is out of balance — taking away more tissue than it builds — bones become weak, brittle, and breakable. Thankfully, a wide range of bone density medications can restore this balance.

Causes of Bone Loss

Technically, bone loss occurs when the density of your bones decreases. A mild case of low bone mass is called simply low bone density, or osteopenia, while osteoporosis describes more significant bone loss. In both cases, bones become brittle and lose the ability to bear weight, raising the risk of fractures, especially in the hip and spine.

Remodeling can be thrown out of balance as a result of a family history of bone loss or simply aging and menopause. Some medications can also lead to bone loss, including steroids, cancer chemotherapy drugs, heparin (a blood thinner), and heavy use of thyroid medications.

Medications to Improve Bone Density

The medications specifically designed to limit bone loss fall into two major categories: those that slow the loss of bone and those that accelerate bone tissue growth. The most commonly used medications slow bone loss, and their effects continue even several years after you stop taking them.

Many bone density medications are taken daily in the form of a pill or nasal spray. Some are injections that are administered every six months. Several are specifically designed for post-menopausal women. Your personal physician or a rheumatologist can go over each medication's side effects and help you decide which one is best for you.

In addition to taking bone density medications, there are some other simple ways to build bone mass density: eat foods rich in calcium, such as milk, cheese, and pasta; eat foods rich in vitamin D, which promote calcium absorption, such as salmon, tuna, and egg yolks; and participate in weight-bearing exercises, including dancing or walking.

Time to Check Your Bone Density

It's easy to find out the status of your bone health. As part of your next doctor's visit or annual physical exam, ask your physician for a bone mineral density (BMD) test. According to the National Institutes of Health, the most common BMD test uses an X-ray to show how your bones compare to those of a normally healthy young adult. It's quick, easy, and painless.

Don't let an "unlucky break" affect your life. Make your own future healthy by taking steps now to keep your bones strong.

Posted in Bone and Joint Health

Randy Gerber writes on health topics for print and online blogs in an effort to help people enhance their quality of life and improve the patient experience. Randy has worked on and written about national, local, and personal health care issues for 25 years. Also, he's married to an OB/GYN, which leads to lively dinner conversations.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.