“This post contains affiliate links. If you shop using these links I make a small commission, but you are never charged any extra! And as always, my opinions are completely my own.”
I was recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. While this is not a huge shock it will require me to make some changes to my life. Being diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia after bariatric surgery is fairly common if you have had a malabsorptive procedure. To find out what the differences are in the surgeries, see my post on The 6 Most Popular Weight Loss Surgery Options. You may have some questions about what osteoporosis and osteopenia are, treatment options if you are diagnosed, and what you can do to avoid it.
Osteopenia vs. Osteoporosis
Over time our bones tend to weaken, and this is known as osteoporosis or osteopenia. They are related conditions but the difference between these two terms lies in the level of the bone damage.
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects bone density. When bone density is reduced, bones are porous and brittle which can break easily. On the other hand, osteopenia is when your bone density is less than normal but not to the point where your bones will break as easily. Osteopenia is essentially a precursor to osteoporosis. Taking steps to improve your bone mineral density can prevent osteopenia from progressing into osteoporosis. These steps include dietary measures and weight-bearing exercises which I will go more into depth later on.
How are Osteopenia and Osteoporosis Diagnosed?
You may not know that your bones are becoming weaker since osteopenia develops without any symptoms. It is not until you have a serious problem or the condition worsens into osteoporosis that you notice something. Your primary care physician can screen you for your risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. The doctor can suggest bone density testing if you are at high risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis.
A DEXA scan is an imaging test that measures your bone density. DEXA stands for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. This scan normally looks at your hip and spine to determine the amount of mineral content in your bones. This is how bone loss can be measured. The test will use low levels of X-rays to measure how dense your bones are.
Unless there is a broken bone, osteopenia does not cause pain. Osteopenia or osteoporosis can be present for many years prior to diagnosis for this reason. Many bone fractures such as a hip fracture or fracture of a bone in the spine are very painful. However, some fractures can be painless too. In addition to back pain, some spinal fractures can cause loss of height and stooped posture.
Treatment Options Available
There are different treatment options available. Your doctor will decide the best treatment for you based on a number of factors including how severe your osteoporosis is, your age, and your medical history. Normally, people with osteoporosis will be put on an oral medication called Bisphosphonates. These are available in either daily, weekly, or monthly doses.
If you have had bariatric surgery, the procedure will affect the ability of your stomach to be able to absorb the oral medication. Normally bariatric patients who are diagnosed with osteoporosis will skip the oral medication and go straight to intravenous injections that will be done four times a year.
Intravenous Medications are absorbed 100% because the nutrients are going directly into the bloodstream, bypassing absorption issues that may occur due to issues in the intestines and stomach. IV therapy is a safe method for treatment and helps replenish your body with the nutrients it needs post-bariatric surgery.
How to Prevent Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
While you cannot control genetics or growing older, there are some things you can do to help slow down bone loss. The best treatment for osteopenia is preventing bone loss that progresses into osteoporosis.
Some strategies to reduce the risk of bone density loss include the following lifestyle changes:
- Quit smoking
- Reduce consuming alcohol
- Cut down on carbonated drinks
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals
- Consider vitamin and mineral supplements
- Leafy greens in your diet
- Decrease caffeine intake
- Be active and include weight-bearing exercises
- Regular check-ins with the doctor
This diagnosis of osteoporosis will mean I have to make some changes in my life. Probably the hardest part of all of this will be giving up my heels. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my 6 to 8-inch platform shoes. I will also need to decrease my caffeine intake and get rid of my Diet Coke habit once and for all.
As mentioned above, good nutrition and regular exercise keep bones healthy. Some good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Soy products, such as tofu
- Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice
Consider taking calcium supplements if you find it hard to get enough calcium from your diet. You want to be taking Calcium Citrate and Vitamin D. My favorite supplement is BariMelts Calcium Citrate. Make sure you talk to your doctor about your calcium intake. Too much calcium can increase the risk of heart disease.
Vitamin D is also helpful because it improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium and improve bone health in other ways. There are several ways to get vitamin D including sunlight, eggs, cod liver oil, trout, and salmon.
Additionally, exercise can help you build strong bones and slow down bone loss. Combine weight-bearing and balance exercises with strength training exercises. Strength training helps strengthen muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, running, jogging, stair climbing, and jump roping. Balance exercises will help you reduce your risk of falling as you get older. By combining these two you will be setting yourself up for success if done at least three times per week for 30 to 45 minutes.
One way to increase your weight-bearing exercise is by using a weight vest. I recently started using the Aduro Sport Weighted Vest and am hoping to see good results in my next DEXA scan.
I will be starting my IV therapy in the next couple of weeks. The therapy, along with increasing my calcium and vitamin D intake will hopefully get my osteoporosis under control.