The human body does not grow throughout the lifetime, it peaks in our early youth. Generally, this peak comes at an age between 25-28 and our metabolism begins to slow down from there.
Our skeletal system also changes with our age. The bones restructure themselves by breaking down old tissues and building new ones. This process is called bone remodeling.
Most people reach peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30. After the age of 40, we slowly begin to lose bone mass.
Bone formation, which is our body’s ability to form new bone tissues faster than its disintegration rate also becomes slow over time. The continual process of bone loss leads to a condition called osteoporosis.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis means porous bone. It is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
In a person with osteoporosis, the skeletal structure weakens, and bone mass and bone mineral density decrease over time. This loss of bone mass and strength could result in fractures such as fragility fracture, spine fracture, hip fracture, etc. becoming quite common. The risk of such osteoporotic fractures increases in old age and is common among post-menopausal women. Multiple risk factors lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis or any bone disease can be alleviated with a diet plan, supplements for osteoporosis, physical activity, and osteoporosis medication.
There are several interesting facts about osteoporosis that one can read up on to ensure healthy bones and reduce fracture risk. Here are a few of them:
- Osteoporosis is a common disease in the United States, with more than 10 million people diagnosed and over 40 million with early signs. These signs include reducing bone density and increased risk of fracture due to weak bones.
- Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men, this risk increases to a higher degree in postmenopausal women. The fact that men have a higher bone mineral density than women makes them immune to osteoporosis. This is also the reason why women are at risk of getting osteoporotic fractures relatively earlier than men.
- Bone loss could be directly attributed to the production of a hormone called ‘estrogen’. The development of this hormone diminishes in a woman who is approaching menopause or is post-menopause, leading to new bone tissues developing at a slower rate. Here, the honeycomb structure of the bone becomes porous and the patient starts to lose bone mass.
- In old age and severe cases of bone loss, even a hard sneeze could lead to osteoporosis fractures. Fragility fractures caused by a fall in old age or cases of severe osteoporosis are generally hip fracture, vertebral fractures, and wrist fracture. The older a person, the more complicated is the recovery process. This is because the body’s process of forming new bone tissue is drastically slower in old age. In fact, 60 percent of elderly people who get hip fractures while suffering from osteoporosis are never able to walk without assistance. If you are wondering whether one can die from osteoporosis, statistics show that elderly people suffering from hip fractures suffer through intense pain and other ailments which can become life-threatening.
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- Early diagnosis is your best bet to avoid complications down the road. This can be done through several methods like bone density tests (DEXA Scan) using a bone-density scanner, dual-energy x-ray, bone densitometry, etc. Early detection of bone strength and bone mineral density could help kickstart the right treatment that mitigates the effects of the disease and slows down the rate of depleting bone tissue.
- Despite all the advancements in the treatment of bone diseases, there is no way to reverse osteoporosis. Though osteoporosis medication along with physical activity guided by professionals and supplementation can prove to be immensely beneficial in preventing fragility fracture and various types of spinal fracture.
- Bone health has a direct connection with our nutritional intake. Calcium and Vitamin D are crucial for bone strength. While calcium has utility to multiple organ functions, its primary job is to maintain strong bones. Whereas vitamin D is a necessity for our bones to absorb the calcium we consume. An average adult needs 1000 mg of calcium per day and post-menopausal women along with anyone over 70 years of age need 1200 mg. Vitamin D requirement is 15 mcg per day for young and adults alike, whereas people above 70 need 20 mcg to maintain healthy bones.
- Bisphosphonate is a name that crops up often during discussions about osteoporosis medication. It is used to treat bone disease for all age groups. Antiresorptive and anabolic medicines are also used to slow down bone loss and accelerate bone tissue formation respectively.
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- Did you know that losing height could be a sign of osteoporosis? If you lose more than a half-inch in a year, we strongly recommend that you get yourself checked for osteoporosis. Other signs include a stooped posture and back pain, as well as having a bone break rather too easily than normal.
- While anyone can face the issues of low bone mass, factors like gender and ethnicity are primary in deciding the risk levels for osteoporosis. Women of Caucasian and Asian ethnicity are at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis than any other sub-set of the population. Family history and body size are also determining risk factors, for eg. a low body weight leads to an increased risk of weak bones.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption has a direct effect on your bones and can become major risk factors for having a low bone mass. Some medications that are used to treat health issues like asthma and hypothyroidism can cause adverse effects on one’s bone health. People on such medications should take all preventive measures in the form of weight-bearing exercises like wearing a weighted vest for osteoporosis and should follow a healthy diet plan for osteoporosis to maintain strong bones.
- Hormone replacement therapy is one of the methods, apart from bisphosphonate medication, used to treat osteoporosis. As we know, receding bone mineral density is directly linked to the reduced production of estrogen in the body, getting hormone therapy helps in speeding up the formation of bone cells. Though this method’s effectiveness and side effects are under debate, it is a proven path to treating people with porous bones.
- Now, here’s the last and the most interesting fact about the porous bone disorder. Your wrinkle cream could be hurting your bones! Research findings reveal that excess vitamin A can put you at higher risk for bone loss and fracture. Vitamin A is present in retinol- an ingredient known to treat skin conditions like acne, age spots, and wrinkles. If you also take supplements with vitamin A, you could wind up having too much in your system, which could prevent vitamin D from reaching your bones. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re balancing your intake of vitamin A between medications, supplements, and fortified foods.
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These are some of the crucial and interesting facts that revolve around osteoporosis, bone strength, bone remodeling, etc. but there are certain myths as well that arise due to limited knowledge in context to this disease. Some of these myths that everyone should steer away from are:
- Only old women of Caucasian and Asian ethnicity should worry about developing osteoporosis – This subset of the population is at the highest risk but that does not make everyone else immune to the disease. Anyone at any age can get osteoporosis and a preventive lifestyle should be followed by everyone from a young age.
- People with osteoporosis can feel their bones weakening- Osteoporosis doesn’t give any loud signs and symptoms in its early days. It is only evident when a person starts feeling the effects of weak bones such as a postural defect, loss of height, etc. Many of these symptoms just tend to be more apparent at a later age.
- Bone diseases like osteoporosis are not fatal – A broken bone or any vertebral fracture a result of advanced osteoporosis is a grave situation that can give rise to massive complications. In old age, it becomes almost impossible to recover from a hip fracture or a spinal fracture.
- Consuming a calcium-rich diet supplemented by physical activity makes you immune to bone fracture- While these are essential to maintain strong bone, osteoporosis can arise from genetic factors as well and these cannot be dealt with lifestyle measures alone.
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Studies confirm that osteoporosis can be prevented in most people by ensuring adequate nutrition and physical activity. It can even be treated to an extent where the loss of bone density can be slowed down with the help of medication and hormone therapy, but osteoporosis cannot be reversed. There some measures you can adopt to prevent the disease and its consequences like an osteoporotic fracture.
- Regularly spend time under sunlight without sunscreen for 15-20 minutes. Vitamin D from the sunlight will help the bones to absorb calcium from the diet.
- Exercises such as weight training, tai chi, isometric exercises, yoga for osteoporosis, swimming, etc can strengthen muscles and increase bone density.
- If you are an elderly adult suffering from osteoporosis, wear rubber footwear with good floor traction, anti-slip pads for rugs, using canes while walking and grabrails for stairs, etc. These are important measures because one cannot risk having a broken bone in old age.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption since smoking is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. These two lifestyle changes can provide exceptional benefits to not just your bone health but overall wellbeing.
- Consume any calcium supplement or any supplement for osteoporosis only after consulting a doctor as excess consumption, in pursuit of strong bones, can potentially cause kidney stones.
- You should compulsorily get a bone density test after your thirties, as it will give you an early idea of their bone cells and skeletal health. This will be especially beneficial for the management of osteoporosis when you are elderly. A bone mineral density test is a must for women who have crossed fifty years of age, post-menopausal women, and individuals above 70 years of age. These people have low bone density due to their advanced age and hormonal fluctuations and these tests will help them in taking necessary precautionary measures.