Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, leading to fragile, brittle bones that are more susceptible to fractures and breaks. The disease overwhelmingly affects women over the age of 55, who make up about 80% of osteoporosis patients, but it also occurs in men and can occur at any age. One of every two women and one of every eight men over the age of 55 in this country will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Fortunately the disease is often preventable and treatable.
Many people do not realize that bone is living, growing tissue. It is made up primarily of collagen and calcium phosphate and throughout the course of your lifetime old bone mass is being reabsorbed and new bone is being created. During childhood and young adulthood, new bone is added at a rate faster than old bone is being removed, until peak bone mass is reached at about age 30. After age 30, bone reabsorption slowly begins to outpace bone creation. When bone is reabsorbed too quickly or created too slowly, osteoporosis can occur.
Risk Factors For Osteoporosis
A) Risk factors that cannot be controlled include:
Body size: Small, slender-boned women are at higher risk.
Ethnicity: Asian and Caucasian women are at the highest risk of developing osteoporosis. African-American and Latino women are at lower risk, although still higher than men.
Heredity: Susceptibility to osteoporosis may pass in families, as people whose relatives have suffered osteoporosis related fractures are more likely to suffer the same.
b) Risk factors that can be controlled include:
Dietary Factors: Diets low in vitamin D and calcium are known to contribute to increased risk of osteoporosis and other bone disorders. Studies have shown that many Americans consume less than half the calcium recommended to build and maintain healthy bones.
Inactivity: Bones need exercise to maintain their optimum density and those with inactive lifestyles or extended periods of bed rest lose bone density faster than those who maintain a reasonable level of activity.
Other Lifestyle Factors: Women who smoke have lower estrogen levels than non-smokers and often start menopause earlier, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Regular alcohol consumption of 2 to 3 ounces a day or more can also be damaging to the skeleton, even in young men and women.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is often called the “silent disease” because symptoms of bone loss are often not apparent until a fall or bump causes a fracture or break. Advanced osteoporosis may result in collapsed vertebrae, which can cause symptoms such as severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as kyphosis, or severely stooped posture.
Following an examination and medical history analysis, your doctor might recommend a bone mineral density test (BMD). These tests are safe, painless, and non-invasive and are used to confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis and help predict fractures and measure the rate of bone density loss.
Treatment of Osteoporosis
The best treatment is prevention. Reducing your chances of developing the disease by proper nutrition regular exercise, and avoiding smoking, alcohol, and other risk factors is the best way to ensure a healthy and active maturity.
Once diagnosed, your doctor will recommend a diet and exercise regime to slow down bone density loss, and discuss safety procedures with you to decrease the risk of falls