WHAT IS OSTEOPOROSIS?
Osteoporosis is a disease that slowly weakens bones, often going undiagnosed, even when it breaks them. Osteoporosis is caused by low bone mass and the weakening of bone, leading to an increased risk of fracture. The disease often progresses without any symptoms or pain.
Osteoporosis is often not discovered until weakened bones cause painful fractures, usually in the back or hips. Unfortunately, once you have a broken bone due to osteoporosis, you are at high risk of having another. And these fractures can be debilitating. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent osteoporosis from ever occurring. And treatments can slow the rate of bone loss if you already have osteoporosis
WHAT CAUSES OSTEOPOROSIS?
Though the exact cause of osteoporosis is not known, we do understand how the disease develops. Your bones are made of living, growing tissue. An outer shell of dense bone encases an inner sponge-like bone (trabecular bone). When a bone is weakened by osteoporosis, the "holes" in the "sponge" grow more extensive in number and size, weakening the internal structure of the bone.
Until about age 30, people usually build more bone than they lose. During the ageing process, bone breakdown begins to outpace bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. Once this loss of bone reaches a certain point, a person has osteoporosis.
IS OSTEOPOROSIS REALTED TO MENOPAUSE?
There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen during perimenopause and menopause and the development of osteoporosis. Early menopause (before age 45) and any prolonged periods in which hormone levels are low and menstrual periods are absent or infrequent
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OSTEOPOROSIS?
Osteoporosis is often called a "silent disease" because, initially, bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a break or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as stooped posture.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS OF OSTEOPOROSIS?
- Age. After maximum bone density and strength are reached at about 30 years old, bone mass naturally declines with age.
- Gender. Women over the age of 50 have the most significant risk of developing osteoporosis. Women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. Women's lighter, thinner bones and longer life spans account for some of the reasons why they are at a higher risk for osteoporosis.
- Ethnicity. Research has shown that Caucasian and Asian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Additionally, hip fractures are twice as likely to occur in Caucasian women as in African-American women.
- Bone structure and body weight. Petite and thin women have a greater risk of developing osteoporosis because they have less bone to lose than women with more body weight and larger frames. Similarly, small-boned, thin men are at greater risk than men with larger frames and more bodyweight.
- Family history. Heredity is one of the most critical risk factors for osteoporosis. If your parents or grandparents have had any signs of osteoporosis, such as a fractured hip after a minor fall, you may be at greater risk of developing the disease.
- Prior history of fracture/bone breakage.
- Certain medications. The use of some drugs, such as the long-term use of steroids (prednisone), can also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Some medical conditions: Some diseases, including cancer and stroke, may increase your risk for osteoporosis.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS?
There are multiple ways you can help protect yourself against osteoporosis, including:
- Exercise. Regular exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also allows you to stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done at least three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, tennis, and zumba are all good weight-bearing exercises. In addition, strength and balance exercises may help you avoid falls, decreasing your chance of breaking a bone.
- Eat foods high in calcium. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to build and keep strong bones. The U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium for adults with a low-to-average risk of developing osteoporosis is 1,000 mg (milligrams) each day. For those at high risk of developing osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women and men, the RDA increases up to 1,200 mg each day. Excellent sources of calcium are milk and dairy products (low-fat versions are recommended), canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, collards and broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, and bread made with calcium-fortified flour. Wonder how much calcium you are getting in a day. Check out the Calcium Calculator at https://osteoporosis.ca/calcium-calculator/
- Supplements. If you need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. While this was one common way of treating osteoporosis in the past, getting enough vitamin D and calcium naturally through diet is preferred now. If you supplement with calcium, be careful not to get more than 2,000 mg of calcium a day. If you are 51 or older, check with your doctor and pharmacist for the appropriate dose and form of calcium. Too much can increase the chance of developing kidney stones.
- Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Being out in the sun for a total of 20 minutes every day helps most people's bodies make enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. Talk to one of our pharmacists about supplementing with the right amount of Vitamin D.
- Medications. A drug class called bisphosphonates can help prevent osteoporosis in people at high risk for fractures.
For more information on osteoporosis visit Osteoporosis Canada at https://osteoporosis.ca
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