Bones are in a constant state of renewal; new bone is made and old bone is broken down. Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of creation of new bone tissue is slower than the rate of its removal. It is a disorder of the skeletal system wherein the bones become weak and brittle, so much so that even mild stresses like bending or coughing can cause physical trauma in the form of fracture. Most people reach their peak bone mass by their early 20s. As people age, bone mass is lost faster than it’s created.
Most commonly affected sites are hip, wrist and spine.
Typically, there are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once bone weakening by osteoporosis commences, there may be signs and symptoms that include:
1. Back pain, caused by a fractured vertebra
2. Loss of height at a later stage
3. Stooped posture
4. Easily fractured bones
Who is prone to Osteoporosis?
1. Gender and Race: The disorder affects men and women of all races. But it has been observed that post-menopausal White and Asian women are at higher risks.
2. One may want to consult a doctor about osteoporosis in case of early menopause or on taking corticosteroids for several months at a time.
3. Hereditary predisposition: one must talk to a doctor if either of one’s parents had hip fractures.
4. Hormonal predisposition: The reduction of estrogen levels in women at menopause and a gradual reduction in testosterone levels in men as they age, lead to development of osteopororsis. Prostate cancer and breast cancer treatments also cause weakening of bones.
5. Body type: People with small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
6. Diet: Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, bone loss and an increased risk of fractures. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight, as in eating disorders, weakens bone in both men and women. Surgery to reduce the size of the stomach or to remove part of the intestine (Bariatric Surgery) limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium.
7. Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle, alcohol and tobacco consumption add to risk of developing osteoporosis.
The probability of developing osteoporosis in old age depends on how much bone mass the person had in their youth. The higher your peak bone mass in youth, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
Weak bones can be strengthened by medications, healthy diet and weight-bearing exercise.
*Combine strength training exercises with weight-bearing and balance exercises �” such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, skiing and impact-producing sports. Swimming, cycling and exercising on gym machines can provide a good cardiovascular workout, but they’re not as helpful for improving bone health.
*Vitamin D improves the body’s ability to absorb calcium and improves bone health in other ways. People can get adequate amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, but this may not be a good source if you’re housebound, or if you regularly use sunscreen or avoid the sun entirely because of the risk of skin cancer. Hence, dietary sources of vitamin D should be increased in the form of green leafy vegetables.