Osteoporosis and its Prevention
by MedPlus Team, April 23, 2016
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in decreased bone mass and density. It leads to weak, thin, and fragile bones with increased susceptibility to fracture. Osteoporosis leads to a porous bone structure that is highly compressible. This results in frequent and multiple fractures even with slight stress. Osteoporosis is considered to be a silent disease as there are no evident symptoms until a fracture occurs.
As the disease progresses, one may experience intense pain including symptoms like loss of height. Osteoporosis is often not discovered till your weakened bones fracture and break. Even after you have sustained a fracture, there is an increased susceptibility for another fracture.
Causes of Osteoporosis:
Some of the causes of Osteoporosis include Vitamin D or calcium deficiency, excessive smoking or drinking, past history of rheumatoid arthritis, genetic predisposition, and a family history of Osteoporosis.
If your parents or grandparents had Osteoporosis or suffered a fractured hip from a minor fall, you are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis. Proper preventive care and treatment can help alleviate the problem and thus prevent complications.
Some steroids like prednisone and cortisol cause what is known as secondary osteoporosis. Taking thyroid hormones can also result in thinning of the bones.
How is the disease identified?
Some of the symptoms of Osteoporosis include fracture, back or neck pain, loss of height and a stooped posture. This ailment has no symptoms until the occurrence of a fracture. This debilitating disease can however be identified by measuring bone density with the help of X-rays and other tests. Though Osteoporosis can affect any part of the body, common areas of susceptibility are the spine, hips, wrists and ribs.
Hip fracture is one of the common problems that result from Osteoporosis which might require surgery including an extended stay in the hospital. It may also result in other complications including death. Osteoporosis can also be quite disabling limiting physical activity. It can lead to other complications like heart disease and diabetes. The resulting weight gain can still further increase the pressure on the knee and hip joints.
The resultant inactivity can also lead to depression. Hence care needs to be taken to ensure emotional health. Fractures to the spine can be truly troublesome as it may result in loss of height, a bent posture accompanied by back and neck pain.
Precautions of Osteoporosis
Having a bone mineral density (BMD) test done at regular intervals is the only way to identify the problem and therefore take adequate care. A BMD ( bone mineral density ) test can indicate bone strength. The T-score of this test helps your doctor determine the susceptibility to fracture in the ensuing years. Any exercise, that helps build muscle will also have a positive impact on bone density and strength.
Three of the important health choices that one can make to prevent fractures include taking enough calcium, vitamin D, and regular graded exercise. Milk and almond butter are good sources of calcium. However, the body needs Vitamin D to absorb Calcium.
Without enough Vitamin D, the calcium in milk, calcium supplements, or other sources will not be properly assimilated by the bloodstream. Vitamin D is found to be available in plenty in the sunshine. The average person produces all the Vitamin D he/she needs in a day by being in the sun for just 20 minutes.
In case you do not get sufficient calcium through food sources like dairy, consult your doctor regarding supplements. Both calcium carbonate and calcium citrate deliver good forms of calcium to your body.
Low calcium levels in the blood (hypocalcemia) can result in high levels of PTH. This in turn results in the breakdown of bone to ensure we have sufficient calcium in our blood. However, as we get older, taking sufficient calcium-rich foods prevents bone breakdown.
Excessive smoking and drinking increase the rate of bone loss. Excessive sodium causes calcium to leach out of your bones and then be expelled through urine. To prevent this, one should follow a low-sodium diet and minimize processed food consumption.
Increased susceptibility for women
Most women start menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. As women near or begin menopause, their estrogen levels begin to fall. Estrogen is a natural protector of bone strength. This lack of estrogen results in the development of Osteoporosis.
Lower levels of estrogen are not the only cause of Osteoporosis. Other factors may be responsible for weakened bones. These factors along with decreased estrogen levels during menopause may cause Osteoporosis to begin or develop faster if already present in your bones.
Before age 30, your body creates more bone than you lose. After that, bone deterioration occurs faster than bone creation resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. Therefore care needs to be taken to build healthy bone strength so that they can come to our rescue as we age.
Care to be taken
You should promote your children to build bone density during their younger years. Bones reach peak density in the early ’30s and from then on, it is our duty to maintain bone health through proper intake of calcium and Vitamin D including regular exercise. Think of your bones as a retirement savings account.
Make weight-bearing exercise part of your fitness routine
Exercise helps more for building and maintaining strong bones than medication. Exercise makes bones stronger, prevents bone loss, and speeds up recovery in the event of a bone fracture. Walking, jogging, yoga, dancing, and aerobics are all good forms of exercise.
Medications for Osteoporosis
Bisphosphonates are a class of drugs that prevent the loss of bone mass, which are used to treat Osteoporosis. Over time, these medicines have been shown to slow bone loss, increase bone density, and reduce the possibility of bone fractures in case of a fall. However, the side effects of these drugs can include nausea, stomach pain, or acid reflux.
Rarely, they can result in bone damage in the jaw (jaw Osteonecrosis). This rare side effect results from high doses of bisphosphonates. Selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs, are groups of drugs with estrogen-like properties. They are also sometimes used for the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis.