A big word for some, with a simple explanation! Many people are plagued by it, especially women. I remember my mom getting a fractured toe a few years ago, from simply bouncing it on her exercise bike. Because of her age, the fracture took double the time diagnosed to heal.
What is it?
It is a condition characterised by a decrease in the density of bone, decreasing its strength and resulting in fragile bones. Osteoporosis literally leads to abnormally porous bone that is compressible, like a sponge. It causes bones to become weak and brittle, so brittle that a fall or even mild stresses like bending over or coughing can cause a fracture. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
In the early stages of bone loss, you usually have no pain or other symptoms. But once bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you may have osteoporosis signs and symptoms that include:
• Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
• Loss of height over time
• A stooped posture
• A bone fracture that occurs much more easily than expected.
Risk Factors and Causes
Other factors that will increase the risk of developing osteoporosis:
• Of Caucasian or Asian race
• Thin and small body frame
• Family history
• Personal history of fractures as an adult
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Lack of exercise
• Diet low in calcium
• Poor general health and nutrition
• Low estrogen levels in women
• Low testosterone levels in men
• Chemotherapy; it can cause early menopause due to its toxic effects on the ovaries
•Amenorrhea (loss of the menstrual period) in young women associated with low estrogen and osteoporosis. It can occur in women who undergo extremely vigorous exercise training, and those with very low body fat; for example, with anorexia nervosa.
• Chronic inflammation, due to chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or liver diseases
• Immobility, such as after a stroke, or from any condition that interferes with walking
• Hyperthyroidism, a condition wherein too much thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland or is ingested as thyroid hormone medication.
• Hyperparathyroidism — a disease wherein there is excessive parathyroid hormone production by the parathyroid gland, a small gland located near or within the thyroid gland. Normally, the parathyroid hormone maintains blood calcium levels by, in part, removing calcium from the bone. In untreated hyperparathyroidism, excessive parathyroid hormone causes too much calcium to be removed from the bone, which can lead to osteoporosis.
• Vitamin D deficiency, which affects calcium absorption to help prevent osteoporosis. This deficiency can result from lack of intestinal absorption of some vitamins.
• Certain medications including long term use of heparin (a blood thinner), oral corticosteroids (steroids such as prednisone), and anti-seizure drugs.
Bone fractures, particularly in the spine or hip, are the most serious complications of osteoporosis. Hip fractures often result from a fall, and can result in disability and even death from postoperative complications, especially in older adults.
In some cases, spinal fractures can occur even if you haven't fallen. The bones that make up your spine (vertebrae) can weaken to the point that they may crumple, resulting in back pain, lost height and a hunched forward posture.
Tests and diagnoses
The most common test to measure bone density is dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). This procedure is quick, simple, and gives accurate results. It painlessly measures the density of bones in your spine, hip and wrist, the areas most likely to be affected by osteoporosis.
Treatments and drugs
The goal of treatment is to prevent fractures by reducing bone loss or, preferably, by increasing bone density and strength. Although early detection and timely treatment can substantially decrease the risk of future fractures, none of the available treatments for osteoporosis are complete cures. In other words, it is difficult to completely rebuild bone that has been weakened. Therefore, prevention is as important as treatment.
Three factors essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life are:
• Adequate amounts of calcium
• Adequate amounts of vitamin D
• Regular exercise
Men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. This daily amount increases to 1,200 milligrams when women turn 50 and men turn 70. Good sources of calcium include:
• Low-fat dairy products
• Dark green leafy vegetables
• Canned salmon or sardines with bones
• Soy products, such as tofu
• Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice
If you find it difficult to get enough calcium from your diet, consider taking calcium supplements.
Vitamin D is necessary for your body to absorb calcium. Many people get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, but this may not be a good source if you live in high latitudes, are housebound, regularly use sunscreen, or avoid the sun entirely because of the risk of skin cancer.
It builds strong bones, slows bone loss, and will benefit your bones no matter when you start. However, you'll gain the most benefits through regular exercise when you're young, and continue throughout your life.
A good combination is strength training with weight-bearing exercises. Strength training helps the muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine; while weight-bearing routines— such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, skiing and impact-producing sports, mainly affect the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!
Medications, dietary supplements and certain exercises can help strengthen your bones. It affects men and women of all races. But Caucasian and Asian women, especially those who are past menopause, are at highest risk.