Osteoporosis is growing, but so are the treatment options available.

Conventional medicine has always had the lead on this, but alternative or natural trtments are rapidly gaining in popularity. Bio-identical hormone treatments are talked about on Oprah and written about in womens magazines. They are gaing because they work and do not cause more problems and drug therapies for osteoporosis tend to do.

It is estimated that twenty four million Americans suffer from osteoporosis; with over 80% of those afflicted, being women.  Additionally, annually, 1.3 million bone fractures occur as a result of osteoporosis.  The National Organization for Osteoporosis states that one in two women and one in four men over 50 will eventually suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture, which can cause pain and disability as well as death.

With American “graying” as we speak, it’s good news that treatments for osteoporosis has advanced.  Let’s look at some of these advancements in the treatment of osteoporosis.

Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT is the oldest and most comment form of treatment for osteoporosis. Specifically, estrogen has been the hormone prescribed.  Recently, a group of medications referred to as

SERMS or Selective estrogen receptor modulators- have been prescribed to treat osteoporosis. This group of medications, in particular Raloxifene, has been shown in extensive studies to increase bone mineral density.

Bisphosphonates- This group of medications is often prescribed for those individuals who do not desire or respond to Hormone Replacement Therapy. The most common prescribed in this class are Bisphosphonates, marketed under the brand names Fosamax®, Boniva® and Actonel®. These medications work specifically by inhibiting parathyroid hormone; the hormone responsible for bone density loss. Thus, in studies, bisphoshonates have been shown to slow down bone density loss, particularly loss that is due to steroid use.  Only one FDA-approved drug, Forteo®, a synthetic version of human parathyroid hormone, is designed to stimulate bone formation. The drug has to be injected daily, making it difficult to administer. While these drugs to offer some relief and hope,  in the February 24, 2008 Medical News Release from Washington University in St. Louis,  assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases and of developmental biology, Fanxin Long, Ph.D., was quoted as saying, “Right now, bisphosphonates — drugs that slow bone breakdown — are the mainstays of therapeutics for osteoporosis, but these drugs don’t enhance bone buildup, so the microarchitecture of the bone isn’t restored if tiny fractures or defects develop. Over the long term they can lead to brittle bones

Calcitonin- In studies, this supplement, widely known under the marketing name as Calcium, has been shown to improve bone mass density.  Of late, calcium is surely suggested to be taken in conjunction with Vitamin D, unless an individual has high exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce hip fractures in numerous studies.

Removing/inhibiting “Notch”- Notch is the word scientists have given to a particular molecular messenger in the human body that directs the maturation of many kinds of immature cells. Researchers at Washington University achieved a breakthrough in January of 2008 when they discovered that by developing mice with no “Notch” (the scientists removed it), their bones grew much denser than usual. This was the result because the number of osteoblasts (good contributors to bone density) increased three-fold. Further testing confirmed that Notch inhibits the development of immature bone marrow cells into osteoblasts, a fact that was not known before.

While it is true that exciting advances in the treatment of osteoporosis have been made, it is accurate and safe to say that there still is no “magic bullet.” As with any disease, the best treatment is prevention. Taking care of our bones through proper and adequate exercise and nutrition continues to be the best option in our hopes of avoiding and contracting this debilitating disease. 

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