Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become weak and thin and increases the risk of fractures. Our bones are in a constant state of renewal where old bone is broken down, and new bone is made. At a young age, our body makes new bones faster before the old bones break down, and as a result, our bone mass increases. After the 20s, this process slows down, and in most cases, the peak bone mass is reached by the age of 30. As people age, osteoporosis occurs because the bones start losing minerals such as calcium more quickly than our bodies can replace them. As a result, our bones start to lose strength, become less dense and break easily.
Osteoporosis is also known as a ‘silent disease’ because most people don’t realise that they have osteoporosis until a fracture happens. There are usually no symptoms or signs of this disease.
Osteoporosis in women is more common in their middle and later years as compared to men. It causes half of women and one-fourth of men over age 50 to break a bone at some point or other. Sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen have an important role in maintaining bone strength in men and women. The fall in oestrogen takes place during menopause which results in quicker bone loss. During the first five years of menopause, most women lose up to 10 per cent of their total body bone mass. If you are suffering from this disease, medical treatment and lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of bone fractures and prevent further bone loss.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis causes no symptoms or specific pain in the early stages of bone loss. Once your bones start to weaken by osteoporosis, you might notice some signs and symptoms like:
- Bone breaks much more easily than expected.
- Back pain caused due to collapsed vertebra or fractured
- A stooped posture
- Loss of height over time
Steps that will help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis
- Know your risk
Osteoporosis comes with both preventable and non-preventable risk factors. Medical conditions such as hormone disorders, autoimmune diseases, blood diseases, and breast cancer affect bone health, increasing risk factors. Moreover, bone loss occurs in people taking certain medications like steroids, some types of gastrointestinal treatments, cancer drugs, and psychiatric medications. Non-preventable risk factors include age, gender, family history, ethnicity, and body size. Osteoporosis tends to be more common among older adults, females, white and Asian people, and among those people with poor diet, eating disorders, and who have thin, small body types. Knowing the risk factors is the first step to reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Regular Exercise
Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises help in improving your balance, posture, strength, and agility, which result in increasing bone density and preventing falls. In addition, including these exercises in your life regularly will prevent osteoporosis.
Exercises you should avoid to reduce the risk of osteoporosis such as:
- excessive bending
- high-impact exercises
- certain pilates or yoga moves
- activities that require twisting
Also, consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Take Calcium-rich Diet
Foods rich in calcium provide good nutrition and help keep your bones healthy and strong. Most adults need 1000-1200 milligrams of calcium a day, depending on age. When your body doesn’t get enough calcium, it will start breaking down your bones to get what it needs. Make sure to have a calcium-rich diet like:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Salmon and sardines with bones
- Calcium-fortified juices and foods such as orange juice, tofu, cereal, and soy milk
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
If you are unable to get enough calcium from your food, discuss with your doctors about the calcium supplements.
- Enough Vitamin D Intake
Vitamin D is very important for the bones because it helps the body absorb the calcium in our diet and promote bone density. Exposure of some skin to the sun is also very important to allow enough vitamin D production. Some foods that contain Vitamin D are:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring
- Cottage cheese
- fortified -foods such as cereal, milk, and orange juice
Most people do not receive enough quantities of vitamin D through diet alone. In such cases, you are highly recommended to talk to your dietician or health professionals regarding Vitamin D supplements to help your bones.
Although we have extremely effective therapies to treat osteoporosis, only about 25 percent of patients who experience a fracture are evaluated and treated for their underlying osteoporosis, resulting in a high risk of repeat fractures in the future.Dr Meryl LeBoff
- Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption
Smoking harms our bones. Regular smoking doubles the chances of fractures and bone loss because it decreases bone density. Moreover, it is very important to limit the consumption of alcohol because it harms our bones too.
Quitting smoking and limiting the consumption of alcohol will help in reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Treat the underlying cause of fracture
If you start experiencing low bone density or a fracture, make sure to get evaluated and treated for osteoporosis. A simple test called bone density scan helps to evaluate the health of the bone. Nowadays, Medical therapies and newer medications help prevent future fractures and build bone in people with low bone mass.
- Do not let work from home impact your bone health
If you have work from jobs that keeps you inactive or occupied most of the day, the lack of physical activity and stress will cause your bones to lose strength. However, even when you are working in a home environment where you have to work for long hours, considering these simple steps will help keep your bones in good condition:
- Stand up and take a walk for 5 minutes after every hour. Walk around your home or up and down from stairs.
- Engage your body in some moderate exercises for 20 minutes a day. You can include some flexible exercises such as stretches and yoga that will help prevent bone injury. Ask your doctor to suggest some exercise program that will help you get rid of osteoporosis even when you have to sit all day for work.
- Create an ergonomic workstation where you can adjust the table, chair, and working screen into the best position to maintain your bone health.
When to treat osteoporosis and seek medical help?
It is never too late to seek treatment if you are suffering from osteoporosis. If your age is above 50 and has at least one risk factor, consult your doctor about getting a bone density test. Treatment will help prevent bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures.