Osteoporosis: Treatment

Don't let a diagnosis of osteoporosis get you down! There are lots of ways to take better care of your bones.

There are effective bone-strengthening medications, and things you can do everyday to take care of yourself.

Calcium and vitamin D
Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is very important if you have osteoporosis:

  • Adults under age 50 need at least 1,000 mg of calcium, plus 400-800 IU of vitamin D a day.
  • Women over age 50 need at least 1,200 mg of calcium, plus 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D a day.

Good sources of calcium include dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Calcium-enriched foods like cereals, soy milk and juices also are good. Getting enough vitamin D can be tricky since few foods contain it—liver, fatty fish, egg yolks and enriched milk have some. You can also get vitamin D from the sun. Many women take calcium and vitamin D supplements, as recommended by their doctor.

Physical activity/exercise
Exercise can make your bones stronger. Try to exercise about 30 minutes on most days of the week. Two types of exercise are especially good for your bones:

  • Weight-bearing exercises like walking, dancing, hiking and aerobics
  • Muscle-strengthening (also called strength training) exercises like lifting free weights, using elastic exercise bands and using weight machines

Treatment for osteoporosis falls into two major categories:

  • Antiresorptives slow the breakdown of bone; they increase bone density by helping to prevent bone loss
  • Anabolics help your body make new bone more quickly

Which type of medication you take will likely depend on your age, whether you've reached menopause, how severe your osteoporosis is, and what other health problems you may have. Your doctor may suggest that you take more than one type of medication at the same time.

Medications your doctor may prescribe:

  • Bisphosphonates. These medications are used to increase bone density and stop your bones from breaking down. Bisphosphonates are the most common type of specific osteoporosis medication treatment. They can be given by pill or injection.

Other forms of osteoporosis medication:

  • Hormone medication. Estrogen and other hormone-like medication can be used in helping to prevent and treat osteoporosis as well as being used to treat menopausal symptoms.
  • Biologics. A new treatment for osteoporosis that focuses on rebalancing bone building and bone deconstruction.

If your doctor suggests lifestyle changes (like better nutrition or exercise) or medication, do it! And if you're having trouble following your doctor's suggestions, be honest about it at your next appointment, so that your doctor can help you get back on track.