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The Asthma-Osteoporosis Connection. Millions of men, women and children suffering from arthritis, asthma, or other diseases take corticosteroids, often resulting in the development of osteoporosis. Powerful anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone and cortisone greatly increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that leads to painful fractures, loss of height and independence, and can even lead to death. Check with your health care provider or pharmacist if you are taking asthma, arthritis, anti-inflammatory or anti-convulsant drugs.

Asthma and bone loss. Asthma affects between 12 and 14 million Americans, more than four million of whom are under the age of 18. Asthma is becoming more common, with African Americans especially at risk. People with asthma are at increased risk for osteoporosis, especially in the spine. Anti-inflammatory medications taken by mouth decrease calcium absorbed from food, increase calcium loss from the kidneys, and decrease bone formation. Corticosteroids also interfere with the production of sex hormones in both women and men, contributing to bone loss and causing muscle weakness, both of which can increase the risk of falling.

Asthma medication can increase risk of osteoporosis. People with asthma who are treated with 40 to 60 mg per day of oral corticosteroids for long periods of time are most likely to experience bone loss. Even those patients taking 10 mg per day are likely to experience some bone loss over time. Bone loss increases with increased glucocorticoid doses and prolonged use.

Asthmatics who use corticosteroids to manage their asthma are at significant risk for bone loss and should ask their doctor about a bone density test to measure their current bone mass and to diagnose osteoporosis before fractures occur.

Asthma and Osteoporosis Medications. Maintaining appropriate hormone levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men will help maintain optimal bone health. At menopause, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may effectively prevent the bone loss and osteoporosis resulting from corticosteroid use. Other medications to stop bone loss include Fosomax (alendronate), Miacalcin (calcitonin), Actonel (risedronate), and Evista (raloxifene).

Calcium and Asthma. Many asthma sufferers think that milk and dairy products trigger asthmatic attacks. This frequently results in the avoidance of dairy products, which is especially damaging for asthmatic children and adolescents who need calcium to build bone.

Exercise and Asthma. Physical exercise can trigger an asthma attack and many people with asthma avoid weight-bearing physical activities that can strengthen bone. Weight-bearing exercises that work the body against gravity, such as walking, racquet sports, basketball, volleyball, aerobics, dancing or weight-training can improve bone health. Talk to your health care provider or ask for a referral to physical therapist. Consult a physical therapist about the best types of exercise before beginning an exercise program.

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