Osteoporosis is a condition of reduced bone density and fragile bones. It leads to abnormally porous bone that is compressible, similar to that of a sponge. Porous bone is very weak and easily fractured.
Normally, our bones are composed of adequate amounts of protein, collagen, and calcium, giving them strength. However, in cases of osteoporosis, the structure and strength are compromised.
Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, but postmenopausal women make up the majority of cases. Over 40 million people in the United States are estimated to have the bone disease, with an estimated 1,000 fractures happening every hour around the world due to osteoporosis complications.
When we’re young, our bones are constantly going through a state of renewal. This means that old bone is broken down to make way for new bone. It’s a normal process that ensures bone health. Our youth allowed for us to make new bone faster that it breaks down, increasing bone mass.
As we reach more advanced ages, this process does not occur as rapidly. The rate of bone breakdown can outpace bone building.
Peak bone density is typically reached in our late 20s. A gradual weakening after the age of 35 is commonly observed. This natural weakening is more pronounced in some individuals, leading to osteoporosis.
A number of risk factors raise the likelihood of osteoporosis development. They are as follows:
The development of osteoporosis can also be caused by hormone imbalances resulting from disease. Several hormones are required for normal bone growth and maintenance. Diseases that affect hormone levels includes hyperthyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and Cushing’s disease.
Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are also associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis
Being in constant risk of bone fractures throughout the body can lead to several debilitating complications. The most serious of which are bone fractures of the spine or hip. These are commonly the result of falls and lead to long-term disability or an increased risk of death within the first year of the fracture.
During early stages of the bone disease, virtually no symptoms are present, but unknowingly to you, your bones are weakening. In the majority of cases, a patient may only discover they have osteoporosis after they experience a fall or injury that leads to a fracture, especially if the injury is minor.
Minor injuries that lead to bone fractures include slipping, a simple cough, or even a sneeze. Commonly, breaks occur in the hip, wrist, or in the spinal vertebrae.
Signs and symptoms of osteoporosis also include:
Often, a diagnosis of osteoporosis occurs after a fracture. At this point, the bone has already reached a level that is much thinner and lighter than normal bone. This is often appreciated once your doctor has ordered an x-ray that shows at least 30 percent of your bone has deteriorated.
While x-rays are a useful test, they are not accurate indicators of bone density. This is why doctors use the DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) scan.
DXA scans can be used to diagnosis osteoporosis. The test typically measures bone density of the hip, the spine, and the forearm, taking only five to fifteen minutes to complete. While DXA scans do expose the patient to radiation, it is far less than the amount sustained through a standard chest x-ray.
When diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe medication. They could be:
Considering that the majority of osteoporosis cases are attributed to modifiable risk factors, changing certain aspects of your lifestyle can help reduce your risk. Making sure you are getting the proper number of vitamins and minerals required for good bone health goes far in helping reduce fracture risk.
The following are various habits you can adopt to maintain healthy bone mineral density and prevent fractures.