The Lowdown on Osteoporosis and How You Can Try to Avoid It

Meaning “porous bone”, osteoporosis is a common disease that causes bones to become brittle. When this happens, people with the condition are more at risk of breaking their bones, and unfortunately even minor falls or just bumps against hard surfaces can cause them to fracture something. For most people, the bones most often broken are hips, wrists, and the spine.

Osteoporosis is an issue for people all around the globe, and with the ageing population in many countries, it’s only set to keep on growing in numbers. In the U.S., for instance, it’s estimated that approximately 54 million adults aged 50 or over currently have low bone mass or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

While people of all ages need to do what they can to keep their bones strong and healthy, this is especially important to those who are 50 years and above. As such, it’s important to understand what osteoporosis is, how it can be spotted, what steps to take to try to avoid it as you age, and how to treat the condition if you already have it. Read on for the lowdown today.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Since osteoporosis is known as an “asymptomatic” condition (that is, showing no symptoms), it’s often not until someone ends up with a fracture that they discover they have the health problem. However, there are some physical changes to be on the lookout for which can signal the onset of the condition.

For instance, if you notice your height has reduced and/or your posture has changed (you may be stooping over), this can be indicative of bones turning brittle. In particular, a height loss of more than two inches is a real warning sign, as is a marked curvature of the spine. In addition, if you notice the sudden onset of severe back pain, especially that which gets worse when you’re standing or walking, you may have osteoporosis.

There are other symptoms to be on the lookout for too. For example, if you have a deficiency of vitamin D; if a blood test reveals you have abnormally high levels of serum calcium or alkaline phosphatase; and/or if you often get joint or muscle aches, you could be at risk of a bone fracture. Similarly, you may have osteoporosis if your bone mineral density T-score comes out at -2.5 or less, or if you notice you struggle to twist, bend down, or get up from a chair without using your arms.

Because many of these signs also indicate other health issues, don’t jump to conclusions. Book an appointment with your physician to get a proper diagnosis. Your doctor will need to run a variety of tests, including getting new x-rays. For details on where to get an x-ray, ask for a referral from your practitioner or simply search online for your closest clinic.

 Risk Factors

When it comes to risk factors, the list is quite long. You are more likely to develop the condition if you’re female; take certain medications (e.g. chemotherapy drugs, immunosuppressive drugs, and anticonvulsants); and if you already have particular medical conditions.

For example, people with Celiac and Crohn’s disease are more at risk, as are those with rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, chronic liver or kidney disease, and anorexia nervosa. Some other factors to consider are having early menopause; a family history of osteoporosis; or a history of alcohol or tobacco abuse.

How to Avoid Getting Osteoporosis

To help your bones stay strong, examine your lifestyle, diet, and the medications you take. It is necessary to keep your weight in the healthy range, and to engage in weight-bearing and resistance exercises on a regular basis to stimulate bone cell activity. Try to cut out or give up completely cigarettes and alcohol too.

As for diet, keep your intake of salt low, and eat nutritious meals so you get enough key nutrients to protect your bones. Calcium, as you’ve probably heard, is vital, as are magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, and phosphorous. Many doctors also recommend patients take certain medications if they’re at higher risk of develop osteoporosis. For instance, it’s believed some hormone therapies, anabolic drugs, and bisphosphonates can boost bone density and help prevent bone loss.

Treatment Ideas

If you already have osteoporosis, there are steps you can take to help treat it. For pain, there are medications which will help you live a fuller life; plus there are also daily injections (put in near the spine or in the vicinity of other brittle bones) which can help your body make new bone tissue.

Physical therapy can also be of benefit, as can a treatment called MILD. It involves practitioners using small instruments to remove excess bone and tissue which may end up pressing on the spinal nerves and causing pain due to a narrowed spinal canal.

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