Endocrinology and managing bone health
Osteoporosis weakens bones, increasing the risk of a break.
March 12, 2020
Many of my patients are surprised when they’re referred to an endocrinologist for bone loss. As an endocrinologist, I look at various hormones and see how they impact the overall health of your bones.
Estrogen, thyroid hormone and parathyroid hormone are among the many hormones that affect your bones.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is one of the most common bone disorders I treat. Osteoporosis happens when the body loses too much bone or can’t make enough bone. This weakens bones over time and makes them more likely to break.
Facts about osteoporosis:
- More than 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- It’s a long-term disease that needs to be monitored and treated over time.
- It tends to occur more often in people over age 50 and in women.
- Osteoporosis is silent and can go unnoticed until a patient breaks a bone in the hip, back or wrist.
- As the disease progresses, there can be other signs as well, like back pain or a curved backbone.
- Under a microscope, bones look like a honeycomb. When osteoporosis is present, the holes in the honeycomb look much larger.
Managing bone health
Typically, I see patients after their primary care doctor makes an initial diagnosis. Often these patients are at a high risk of breaking a bone or have broken a bone despite treatment. Many patients have already had a DEXA scan, which is a scan to measure bone density.
Many patients see taking medications for osteoporosis as problematic. There are risks and side effects to any medication. But there are also significant benefits that help manage bone health.
If you have questions about medications, talk with your physician about side effects and risks. Every patient is different. By working together, we can determine the best treatment for you based on your individual health.
If your bone density continues to decline, or if you break a bone even when you’re on medication, injections or IV therapy might be options.
How to improve bone density
Improving bone density also requires changing your lifestyle. I urge my patients to:
- Stop smoking.
- Drink less alcohol. Too much can lower bone formation.
- Add weight-bearing exercise to your routine. For example, walking, jogging, dancing and lifting weights help keep bones strong by working the muscles and bones against gravity.
- Eat more foods with calcium and vitamin D. For calcium, try Greek yogurt or low-fat cheese. For Vitamin D, try eggs, fatty fish like sardines and fortified cereal.
- Reduce the chances of falling. Add exercises that build balance and range of motion. If needed, use an assistive device when walking, like a cane.
If you have questions about managing osteoporosis and low bone mass, contact The Polyclinic Endocrinology.
By Asma Hasan, MD
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.