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Osteoporosis- Symptoms, Causes and Management
The next big worry for “women” is seriously – osteoporosis. “Osteo” means bones and “porous” means with hole. Osteoporosis is a condition where bones became weak and brittle. This makes them prone to fractures and bone aches. It can now be considered as a lifestyle disorder disease. It was really surprising for me to know that the lifestyles we teenagers are leading today is causing onset of osteoporosis by the time a girl reaches 30. Really shocking. Although genetically this condition can be inherited from one generation to another but lifestyle also plays a very big factor that pre-disposes an individual to this condition. This condition is more prevalent in women than men. Although it’s so common in India now, every one women out of three suffers from it- it’s sad to see that it’s not taken that seriously and women tend to overlook it. This condition is not taken seriously world over.
Bones are typically made up of outer thin compact layer on bone and inner spongy layer of bone. It is the spongy layer that holds our bone marrow. The bone layer is typically made up of protein, collagen, and calcium all of which give bone its strength. Bones that are affected by osteoporosis can break with relatively minor injury that normally would not cause a bone to fracture. The fracture can be either in the form of cracking (as in a hip fracture) or collapsing (as in a compression fracture of the vertebrae).
Bone mass (bone density) is determined by the amount of bone present in the skeletal structure. Generally, the higher the bone density, the stronger the bones. Bone density is greatly influenced by genetic factors, which in turn are sometimes modified by environmental factors and medications.
Normally, bone density accumulates during childhood and reaches a peak by around age 25. Bone density then is maintained for about 10 years. After age 35, both men and women will normally lose 0.3%-0.5% of their bone density per year as part of the aging process.
Estrogen is important in maintaining bone density in women. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, loss of bone density accelerates.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a silent killer because during its early course of onset there are no symptoms at all. The disease then slowly progresses as lower back pains and neck pains. It is later that the condition progress as sharp intense pains increase suddenly. These pains unlike other pains linger on for more than 3 months. Besides these, bone pain, fatigue, brittle fingernails and persistent lower back pains are some of the symptoms of the disease.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Family history is one of the main causes of osteoporosis, besides that there are many other risk factors that pre-disposes an individual to this condition. They include- lack of exercise, low intake of calcium in diet, poor general health, alcohol consumption, smoking, thin and small body frame(Like me 🙁 — What are you smiling for?), low estrogens levels in women, malabsorption from certain conditions, low levels of vitamin D in body which help in absorption of calcium. Even sedentary lifestyle can be cause of osteoporosis.
Management of Osteoporosis
Some specific lifestyle changes can do wonders. Some individuals find it difficult to accomplish but giving up smoking, reducing alcohol intake and adopting exercise routine as part of life will help prevent osteoporosis. Smoking cigarettes decreases estrogen levels and can lead to bone loss in women before menopause. In postmenopausal women, smoking is linked with increased risk of osteoporosis.
Patients are often recommended to follow proper diet with high intake of calcium. Post menopausal women are recommended calcium supplements approx 1500 mg per day. In the first several years after menopause, rapid bone loss may occur even if calcium supplements are taken. The total daily intake of calcium should not exceed 2000 mg. It is also important to see to it that you get sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are also available for elderly people who are housebound or institutionalised. Eggs, fortified foods like breakfast cereals and yogurt are major sources of vitamin D from diet whereas exposure to sunlight is good source of vitamin D which is absorbed from skin.
Vitamin D supplements in adequate amounts together with calcium are “A MUST” for good bone health.
Engage in weight- bearing exercises. Increase physical activities like jogging, walking and climbing stairs. These help in increasing your bone density. Exercise programmes should be tailored to the individual needs. It is important to avoid exercises that can injure already weakened bones. In patients over 40 and those with heart disease, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and high blood pressure, exercise should be prescribed and monitored by physicians. An extreme level of exercise is also NOT recommended. It may cause damage to the bones.