May 03


Happy Monday, and welcome to Medical Mondays! May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, so I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you know what I’m gonna be talking about today! :]

Fun fact! Once upon a time, I used to volunteer as a medical interpreter for a free primary care clinic in Sacramento. I love and miss that place dearly, and I would love to go back someday to volunteer as a physician. <3

Osteoporosis is a topic that is near and dear to me, partly because I gave a presentation on it at a health fair back in 2010. In Cantonese! (+ also because it’s supposed to be a lot more prevalent in Asian females.)

The Menopause poster was next to me and I used it as a trap poster, because our patients would only get raffle tickets if they could tell me something they learned from my talk! :O Yes, I was one of those people, but we were trying to promote health and wellness!

I can’t find my final draft anywhere in the recesses of my email archives (sigh), but this was a rough draft of a tiny part of it!

在美國每年約有超過一百五十萬的骨折的病人是隱性的骨質疏鬆症病人,而其中婦女患者又佔了总数的80%。 骨質疏鬆症有可能会提高骨折的风险,特别是在手腕,背骨,和臀骨. 骨質疏鬆症的徵狀並不明顯, 但是风险因素包罗年级大,钙质和丁种维生素不够,没有运动,吸烟,或者喝很多酒。吃有钙质和丁种维生素的东西或者做运动可以帮助你降低罹患疾病的機會。

If you can’t read that…fear not–I’m reverting back to English!

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the most common metabolic disorder of the bone, and is defined as a lumbar spine (L2-L4) density level that is 2.5 standard deviations below the peak bone mass of a 25-year-old.

It is more commonly found in women because women…

  • Tend to live longer than men
  • Usually have lower peak bone mass
  • Experience rapid bone loss during menopause (secondary to decreased estrogen production)

Osteoporosis is usually asymptomatic, and often isn’t discovered until a fracture has occurred. The most common fractures are found in the vertebral spine or the hip (at the femoral head).


Osteoporosis can be diagnosed with a DEXA scan (a bone density test) or by the occurrence of characteristic fractures (typically vertebral or hip) when given a consistent history, physical exam, and lab findings.

A DEXA scan is usually indicated as a screening tool for osteoporosis for all >65yo women. Lab tests can be performed to rule out secondary conditions (e.g. hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, renal or hepatic dysfunction).

My Z score from 2013!

Lifestyle Changes

  • Eat foods with vitamin D, such as milk that has vitamin D added in it, and fish from the ocean!
  • Take calcium and vitamin D supplements if you don’t get enough from your diet.
  • Try to be active for at least 30 minutes/day for most days of the week, and incorporate weight-bearing exercise!
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to (at most) 1-2 drinks a day.

Fall Prevention

  • Make sure all your rugs have a no-slip backing to keep them in place + watch out for slippery floors!
  • Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes with rubber soles.
  • Tuck away any electrical cords, so they won’t be in your way.
  • Keep all walkways well lit.
  • Get your vision checked.
  • Ask your health care provider to see if any of your medicines might make you dizzy or increase your risk of falling.


Medications For Osteoporosis

If you have osteoporosis or at a high risk for fractures, there are a variety of medications available.

  • Bisphosphonates come in pill or shot form, and increase  bone mass + reduce incidence of fractures.
  • “Estrogen-like” medicines are selective estrogen receptor modifiers (SERMs) that act like estrogen, which helps to prevent bone loss. These medications are only for women who have undergone menopause. Some SERMs may reduce breast cancer in women at high risk.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help to prevent + treat osteoporosis, as well as the symptoms related to menopause…but is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, venous thrombosis, and possibly coronary disease.
  • Parathyroid hormone (PTH) stimulates bone formation and activates bone remodeling, but is rather costly. Reserved for patients who have severe osteoporosis.
  • Denosumab blocks RANKL (receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand), a protein that causes bone to break down. Inhibiting RANKL helps to reduce bone loss. Denosumab is a newer drug and long-term effects are not yet known, so it is not as often prescribed.
  • Calcitonin doesn’t work as well as other osteoporosis medications, but can relieve pain from broken bones in the spine. Should not be used for more than 6 months.

Make sure you check out Jen @ Pretty Little Grub’s post on calcium + vitamin D requirements for active people! :]

I came up with this design ages ago for our class t-shirt contest! :]
Disclaimer: This is where I reiterate that I am merely a medical student struggling through the world that is her clinical rotations. The statements made on this blog should not be taken as medical advice to treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please contact your own physician or health care provider before starting a health or fitness/wellness program. (See full disclaimer here.)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.fairyburger.com/osteoporosis/


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  1. Kaylin @ Enticing Healthy Eating

    May I just point out that I LOVED your pun here>>>>”gonna go out on a limb” at the beginning of this post. You’re funny!

    1. Farrah

      hehehe, I’m glad you caught it! I like to sneak stuff in there every here and there just for fun! ;P

  2. CARLA

    REALLY INTERESTING and a topic not enough people are writing about in our world.
    CARLA recently posted…Tomorrow is the official day.My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks, Carla!

  3. Susie @ SuzLyfe

    sosososososooso important. As someone with a family history of Osteoporosis, some one with a chronic illness, and someone who has already been on/off steroids for quite a bit of her life, osteoporosis is a huge concern for my long term health. I already have (per a bone scan) the markers for osteopenia, so that is a huge part of why I engage in strength training and such. It is also likely why I”m currently having my issue with my foot, most likely.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…How Running and Fitness Improves Parenting (repost)My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Augh! I’m so glad you’re doing strength training and aware of the things you can do that can help you to prevent it from progressing. I hope the issues with your foot aren’t too serious! :[!

  4. Dana @ Pellerini Proclaims

    My doctor diagnosed me with osteopoena (sp?) and I now take calcium supplements. Are the two related?
    Dana @ Pellerini Proclaims recently posted…My WILD Time at Lion Country Safari and Dunkin’ Donuts!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Osteopenia is basically when your bone density is lower than what’s considered to be normal, but not low enough to be osteoporosis.

      Calcium supplements should help to reduce bone loss, as well as including more green veggies, eggs + salmon (basically calcium/vitamin D-rich stuff). And weight-bearing exercise! (Assuming you have no dietary restrictions or injuries/conditions that prevent you from being able to eat/do that)!

  5. Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Great post with really important information. When I’m counseling teenage girls about calcium (because who drinks milk these days), I always tell them that sure, who thinks about your bones until you’re my age. My mom has severe osteoporosis, and now is playing catch up with those horrible biophosphinates. I don’t want to get to that point. I hope all this weight bearing exercise I do will be effective.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Race Recap: Great Western Half MarathonMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thank you! That’s definitely true, but I’m so glad you’re counseling them, because prevention is key! I think a problem is also that not too many people know what’s rich in calcium other than milk!

      I hope so too! It should definitely help! <3

  6. Betsy

    My mom is going through this right now. I don’t think she has osteoporosis yet I think it might brittle bones or something but I’ve definitely been learning more about it. Definitely has me changing the way I do a few things!
    Betsy recently posted…Inspirations for Your WeekendMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Mine does too, and I’ve been trying to get her to eat more things with calcium + walk around/exercise more! It sucks that it usually doesn’t have any symptoms until it’s already happened! :[

  7. Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    My Mom had this so I am trying to help it not be as bad for me!
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Back From Brazil!!!!!!My Profile

    1. Farrah

      It’s good that you exercise + eat healthy! :]!

  8. Alyssa

    Thank you for bringing awareness on osteoporosis. I’ve heard it a lot before but all I know is to drink milk which is rich in calcium. Thanks for sharing more info 🙂

    Alyssa recently posted…Shop for Clothes the Smart WayMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Anytime! Milk tends to be the go-to, but leafy greens, seafood and beans also have lots of calcium too! 😀

  9. Lisa Sharp

    Great information! I’m vitamin d definition so I’m on a pretty high dose. Hoping to get my levels where they should be!
    Lisa Sharp recently posted…Green Cleaning EssentialsMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I’m pretty sure I’m vitamin D deficient too! 😡 I’ve been taking supplements–I hope my levels are where they should be as well!

  10. Jess @hellotofit

    Great post, Farrah! I used to have a client that came to me because of her bone density scan. With just a few months of training, she came back with test scores negative for osteopenia!
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Monday motivation – become what you thinkMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Yay, that’s awesome! Great job, and hooray for helping her to prevent it! 😀

  11. Shashi at RunninSrilankan

    My mom found out she had Osteoporosis after a bad fall about 5 years ago – this post is so informative Farrah!

    1. Farrah

      Aw man! I’m sorry to hear that! It sucks that that’s usually the way it’s diagnosed–the fact that it doesn’t usually have symptoms makes it harder to spot early! :[

  12. Elizabeth @ Enjoy Every Bite

    I wish teenage girls realized how important bone health is at their age!! All great information!
    Elizabeth @ Enjoy Every Bite recently posted…Zesty Turkey Pretzel Buns with GuacamoleMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Me too! :[ Gotta build up on that bone density while you’re young! :]

  13. Alex

    You ARE my very own personification of Grey’s Anatomy. For realz. Woooo!
    Alex recently posted…Finding Love OnlineMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      hahaha, why thank you! ;P

  14. Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine

    All I can say is…LIFT HEAVY GIRLS!!!
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine recently posted…Spiced Cashew Plum Rice PorridgeMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      Amen to that! <3

  15. genevieve @ gratitude and greens

    One of my friends is always making sure to load up on calcium because osteoporosis runs in her family. This is great info- I will definitely send her this way!
    genevieve @ gratitude and greens recently posted…Melt-In-Your-Mouth Flourless Chocolate CakeMy Profile

    1. Farrah

      I hope it helps her! :]!

  16. Eva

    I wish my mom could read this. Very educational!
    Eva recently posted…Russian Pancakes (two recipes)My Profile

    1. Farrah

      Thanks, Eva! :]

  17. Jessica @ Nutritioulicious

    What a great post on such an important topic. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on this!

    1. Farrah

      Thanks, Jessica! :]

  18. christina

    My uncle was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. It is a struggle that he is ready to take on though. Hopefully there are a few treatment solutions out there that can help him with it as well.

    1. Farrah

      I’m sorry to hear that! :[ There definitely are a lot more treatment options these days than there used to be, so I hope he finds one that works really well for him!!

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