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Treatment Benefits vs Risks

All women should take steps to lower the risk of breaking a bone without a drug. These steps include:

  • reducing fall risk by strengthening the legs, improving balance, reducing trip hazards like loose rugs around the home;
  • maintaining an optimal vitamin D level, and
  • getting adequate nutrition, especially calcium-rich foods and protein.

There is a time when prevention strategies may not be enough to help reduce your risk of breaking a bone. In those cases, you need to have a candid discussion with your health care provider about benefits and risks of treatment. Osteoporosis treatments have been shown in extensive clinical trials to reduce the risk of fracture by at least 35%.

Learning your fracture risk can help you weigh the risks of treatment versus the benefits and can also help you understand factors that you may be able to control that can lower your risk without osteoporosis drugs.

Once you know your risk, as a general guideline:

  • Women at high fracture risk should start or keep taking a drug for osteoporosis.
  • Women at moderate fracture risk need to discuss their particular health situation with their health care provider before making a treatment decision.
  • Women at low fracture risk should NOT be treated with osteoporosis drugs.

Experts currently recommend stopping bisphosphonate treatment after 3-5 years for a “holiday” that can last 1-or-more years (depending on the bisphosphonate used). Your health care provider will monitor your bone health to determine if you are still benefiting from the treatment. Speak with a health care provider about fracture risk before stopping any drug.

Are you having an aching pain in your thigh or groin? If you are taking an osteoporosis drug, call your doctor to schedule an MRI or CT of the femur shaft (thigh bone). Most women who eventually have an atypical femur fracture will have signs of a stress fracture that may show up on X-ray, but is best detected on CT or MRI well before the bone breaks completely.

Revised: 10/14/2016

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The American Bone Health Fracture Risk Calculator™ estimates fracture risk for women and men over age 45.

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