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Diabetes & Endocrinology

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Bone, Calcium, and Parathyroid Disorders

Your bones add support and help your body move. When you’re young, the body builds bone faster than it removes it, but that slows as we age. Bone disorders can cause your skeleton to weaken at an accelerated rate, increasing the risk of a fracture. Additionally, certain disorders that raise or lower the calcium in the blood can cause many serious symptoms and lead to weaker bones over time. Our bone and calcium experts help you take the right steps towards preventing the weakening of your bones and fractures by strengthening weak bones and maintaining healthy blood calcium.

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Risk Factors of Osteoporosis

There are a number of risk factors that are linked to a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. It is possible to change some risk factors, but not others.

Changeable Risk Factors

  • Alcohol intake: excess drinking increases the risk of both bone loss and fractures
  • Anorexia nervosa: this eating disorder increases your risk for osteoporosis
  • Calcium and Vitamin D intake: a diet low in calcium and Vitamin D can make you prone to bone loss
  • Cigarette smoking: smoking is as bad for the bones as it is the heart and lungs
  • Lifestyle factors: an inactive lifestyle tends to weaken your bones
  • Medication use: long-term use of some medicines, including glucocorticoids and anticonvulsants, can lead to loss of bone density and fractures

Risk Factors You Cannot Change

  • Age: the older you are, the greater the risk for osteoporosis
  • Body size: leaner people have a greater risk
  • Ethnicity: Asian and White women are at the highest risk. However, African American and Hispanic women still have a significant risk
  • Family history: A family history of fractures or osteoporosis can increase your risk.
  • Sex: your chances of developing osteoporosis are increased if you are a woman due in part to the changes that happen during menopause.

Prevention

Building new bone is very difficult, even with the right medications.  So preventing bone loss is the best plan.  You can protect your bones with the help of a well-balanced diet. Keeping your bones healthy through diet includes getting the right amount of calcium (it’s 1,000 mg for women 50 and younger, and 1,200 mg for women 51+), Vitamin D (helps your body absorb calcium and strengthen your bones), and making sure you’re getting your recommended daily protein intake (.4 grams per pound of body weight). A diet that ensures you’re getting all the nutrients and vitamins your bones need will go a long way in preventing fractures.

Similarly, exercise and healthy life habits can affect your bone health in the future. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises promote bone fitness and stimulate the cells responsible for building bones. In conjunction with exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, eating a well-balanced diet, and staying active will help stave off bone loss.

Vitamins

Calcium and Vitamin D play a pivotal role in bone density and health. Low calcium intake is associated with low bone mass, rapid bone loss, and a high fracture rate. Your calcium needs will change throughout your lifetime. Your provider will help you determine the correct amount of calcium for your age and lifestyle, and also talk you through your calcium options.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and also contributes to bone health. While it is commonly found in egg yolks, liver, and saltwater fish, many people don’t get enough Vitamin D naturally and must rely on a supplement.

Healthy Lifestyle

Your bones get stronger when you exercise, similar to how muscle responds to exercise. Resistance exercises like lifting weights and using weight machines are great for your bones. Likewise, weight-bearing exercises (such as climbing stairs, dancing, hiking, jogging, playing tennis, and walking), are great for strengthening your bones.

Regularly consuming 2-3 ounces of alcohol a day can be damaging to the skeleton, regardless of age. People who drink heavily are prone to bone loss and fracture due to poor nutrition and an increased risk of falling.

Similarly, smoking is bad for your bones. Smoking decreases estrogen levels in women, causing them to go through menopause earlier than non-smokers. Smokers may also absorb less calcium from their diets, increasing their risks of osteoporosis. 

Common Bone & Calcium Disorders

Bone and calcium disorders are often caused by abnormalities of minerals–calcium, vitamin D, phosphorous–or of bone mass or bone structure. Osteoporosis is the most common bone and calcium disorder, but Paget’s disease of the bone and vitamin D disorders also often go unnoticed and can lead to fragility fractures, bone deformities, and serious disability. 

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone,’ and is a disease that weakens bones, making them at risk for sudden and unexpected fractures. This silent disease typically progresses without symptoms or pain, and often is not found until bones fracture. Many people may not know they are suffering until their bones are so weak that a sudden injury causes a low-impact fracture or collapsed vertebra.

Following a comprehensive medical examination, your doctor may recommend a bone density measurement. A DEXA, or bone mineral density (BMD) test, can identify osteoporosis, determine your risk for fractures, and measure your potential response to treatment.

Paget’s Disease of the Bone

Paget’s disease of the bone is the second most common bone disorder in people aged 50+ after osteoporosis. It is a chronic bone disorder in which areas of your skeleton become enlarged and deformed, but remain fragile because of the excessive breakdown and deformation of bone.

Paget’s can be symptomless for a long time, but if symptoms do occur, they may include pain and heat in the affected area, bone deformities, and broken bones. Treatment typically involves medications to reduce and slow the breakdown of bone.

Vitamin D Disorders

Vitamin D plays a vital role in the absorption and use of calcium in the body. Not only does it help calcium build strong bones and teeth, it also helps your body maintain a normal level of phosphorus.

Consistent vitamin D deficiency can lead to calcium and bone disorders, especially when bone disease already exists. Vitamin D helps prevent rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, forms of bone disease that can weaken your skeletal system.

Parathyroid Disorders

We have four parathyroid glands, and they’re found near the thyroid. The parathyroid releases parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls the calcium and phosphorus levels in your bloodstream. Your bones, kidneys, and small intestine all respond to PTH by increasing calcium levels.

Hyperparathyroidism 

Hyperparathyroidism occurs when your parathyroid glands produce too much PTH. Sometimes this can cause an elevated blood calcium level (hypercalcemia) which can cause many symptoms. Other times the hyperparathyroidism is in response to low vitamin D or calcium intake (secondary hyperparathyroidism) which typically does not increase blood calcium levels.

Symptoms of hyperparathyroidism include: 

  • anxiety
  • constipation
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty with memory
  • fatigue
  • frequent urination (especially at night)
  • insomnia

Treatment for hyperparathyroidism typically includes surgically removing any abnormal parathyroid glands, while leaving any normal tissue in place. 

Bone, Calcium, & Parathyroid Disorder Treatments 

An individually created, comprehensive treatment plan from our Bone & Calcium experts focuses on exercise, proper nutrition, and safety to address and prevent falls and fractures. 

Treatments may also include:

  • calcium and vitamin D supplements
  • medications to strengthen bone
  • nutrition counseling
  • orthopaedic surgery
  • physical therapy

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medication to increase bone density, reduce your fracture risk, and slow bone loss.

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Schedule a Bone & Calcium Disorder Appointment

Our Bone & Calcium experts help you take the right steps towards preventing the softening and weakening of your bones and treat any current issues you have.
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