What is Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones.” Your bone mass naturally decreases as you age and bones can become less dense as they lose mass, making them more porous (full of tiny holes and cracks). This can result in bones being more spongy than hard. If too much bone mass is lost at one time, or if the body cannot make enough new bone material to keep up with the loss, osteoporosis will develop. Osteoporosis causes bones becoming weak and brittle. If your bones remain this porous, they can easily be broke.
One in four women over the age of 65 is diagnosed with osteoporosis. Men and women with smaller frames are more at risk as they have less bone mass to draw from as they age. Low testosterone levels in men has also been linked as a risk factor for developing this disease. It is important for everyone take action to prevent and manage osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease because there are few warning signs. Many people do not experience any symptoms until they accidentally break a bone. Some patients experience back pain caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra. As the vertebrae weaken, patients may also experience loss of height over time. Even when a bone is broken, the pain might not be severe enough for the patient to notice. Many people just attribute the pain to “getting older.” This is why most people do not experience symptoms until they break a bone causing severe pain.
Loss of bone mass can be caused by a number of factors. Lack of estrogen affects both sexes and has been linked to the development of this disease. If you do not get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, your bones are more likely to become brittle. Your body must take these minerals from the bones to make the rest of your body function normally. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like inactivity, severe alcohol use and cigarette smoking causes bone loss as well. Some medications, like steroids, can cause osteoporosis if used for long periods of time. Family history and body mass can also play a role.
Prevention of osteoporosis is extremely important. Weight bearing exercises like walking, dancing will make your bones stronger and less prone to breaking. Exercise will also lower body mass which will decrease the stress on your bones. Changing your diet can also aid in prevention. Add calcium to your daily diet. If you struggle to get enough calcium from the food you eat, taking a supplement can be helpful. Aim for 1,000 mg a day if you are a man. Post-menopausal women should have 1200 mg a day. Consider supplementing with Vitamin D as well, since it helps your body absorb calcium. Decreasing alcohol use and quitting cigarettes will also lower your chances of developing osteoporosis.
If you have experienced any warning signs of osteoporosis, see your doctor right away. If you are older or have a family history, they may suggest you have a DEXA scan to check your bone density. This is more in depth than a simple X Ray. (X Rays can only detect problems after a bone is fractured.) Your primary care physician will refer to you a specialist if you are diagnosed. You may see an endocrinologist who specializes in metabolic disorders or a rheumatologist who specializes in diseases of joins, muscles and bones. These specialists will work with your primary doctor to ensure you are receiving the best care possible.
November is Osteoporosis Awareness Month visit https://osteoporosis.ca/ for more information