Osteoporosis is a bone-related condition characterized by unusual thinning and weakness of the bone muscles. It tends to attack older adults, both men, and women alike, causing serious fractures and pain around the affected regions.
Statistics show about 14.1 million Americans who are 50 and older suffer from osteoporosis including those at high risk. Such high prevalence draws attention to the matter and in this guide, we will be tackling common questions around osteoporosis and its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment protocol. Read on to find out more.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a medical condition where the bones grow brittle and consequently become susceptible to fractures at the slightest inconvenience. Bone mass and density are affected and because of this, the tissues start to grow weaker.
The natural order of the body is to regenerate new bone tissues especially during the developmental stages. When young, your body makes new bones faster and this explains why bone mass is highest in your youthful years.
However, when aging sets in (usually from 30 and above) this order is reversed and now bone mass is lost faster than it is created. The inside of the bone appears to have more porous spacing than what a normal healthy bone would register. And because of this deficiency, the outside begins to grow thinner and weaker.
Who can Get Osteoporosis?
Both genders are candidates for osteoporosis, however, a few factors increase the likelihood of lower bone mass. That said, people likely to suffer from osteoporosis are those with;
Underlying Medical Conditions
Pre-existing conditions such as cancer, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, etc. could escalate your chances of developing osteoporosis. This is because of a weakened immune system.
Smaller Body Frames
Petite-bodied people are also at great risk because they have lesser bone mass to draw from as they age. A body mass index of 19 or less is unsafe.
Family history plays a crucial role here. Parents who suffered from osteoporosis or incurred hip and spine fractures at some point in their lives tend to pass it on to their children.
Also, race and ethnicity have in the past been linked to the disease. Whites and Asians are more prone to lower bone mass conditions than those of African descent. Part of this has to do with their shorter and more slender physiques.
Poor Lifestyle Habits
Too much alcohol consumption, smoking, and sedentary living has serious repercussions on the vitality of your bones.
Older Age Brackets
The older you get the slower you manufacture fresh bone tissue.
Although male counterparts are prospects too, osteoporosis is more common among women, especially after menopause.
In men, the cause is undefined as of yet however there is a close link to a drop in androgen levels more especially testosterone.
It can be traced to predominantly 3 major osteoporosis causes. Understand that previous medical conditions, hereditary susceptibility, and other gene mutations could set you up for bone-related complications but so can these.
Calcium is the secret behind strong healthy bones. But apart from this, the body also needs it for general muscle movements and message transmissions between blood vessels.
When not enough of the mineral is in the bloodstream, the body will resort to calcium stores found in the bones and teeth. By depriving them of this, the strength and toughness of the bones are compromised.
Drop-in Estrogen Levels
Low estrogen levels translate to bone loss acceleration. Women in the menopause phase are common victims of this. Nevertheless, younger women could also have low estrogen owing to surgical removal of the reproductive organ, or if they stopped menstruating.
Just like with other tissue and muscles that need to be exercised, bones are no different. Staying inactive makes your bones fragile and prone to injury even with simple accidents such as falls.
Osteoporosis Symptoms and Diagnosis
Osteoporosis at the early stages is hard to detect. In fact, most times unless a fracture occurs, usually, the condition remains undiagnosed.
However certain complications may hint at a drop in bone mass or density. For instance, rib, hip, spine, and wrist injuries are common indicators that in most cases end up in osteoporosis. And if the condition goes untreated for some time it could get so severe that a strong cough or sneeze is enough to provoke a tear.
For the spine especially, the vertebrae discs could weaken so much that they break under the normal pressure in your back. The outcome is a surge of intense pain along the spine and back of the neck.
Other symptoms to watch out for are:
- Weakened grip strength
- Brittle nails
- Weak gums and teeth
- A bent posture
- Loss of height over time
- Unusual porosity in the bone under special imaging
To diagnose osteoporosis, a bone density scan is needed. The test is done to measure bone mineral mass, bone loss, and examine the risk of fractures. The DEXA scan is a popular X-ray done in these kinds of cases.
Related: How to Remedy Lower Back Pain
What is osteoporosis treatment? There is no cure for osteoporosis at the moment, however, there are treatment plans that could help improve the health of your bones and prevent the disease altogether. These include;
A Calcium Diet
A healthy dose of calcium goes a long way in revitalizing the affected bone tissues. Foods like green leafy vegetables, white meat, cereals, and fruits are essential in your diet.
If you have certain dietary restrictions, consider calcium supplements. Most people need about 1000-1200 milligrams of calcium a day.
Natural sunlight is a good source of vitamin D and in case you live in very cold areas look for foods rich in minerals. For example, egg yolks, liver, and cheese.
An exercise regimen will help improve strength drastically. Weight training, cardio, and balance exercises are all great ideas for this.
Consider jogging, running, skipping rope and combine this with some strength training for muscle development. Yoga will help increase flexibility and reduce the chances of fall accidents.
In the same way, good nutrition and regular exercising equally serve as preventive measures against osteoporosis.
Apart from uncontrollable factors like age, and gender, poor lifestyle choices could lead to decreased bone health. Make sure to consult with your doctor if you have any osteoporosis symptoms so you can detect the disease early.