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Osteoporosis, What is Osteoporosis, Osteoporosis Prevention and more.

Aging > Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is an aging-related disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. Throughout the course of the disease, bone becomes thinner and more porous, thus leading to a decrease in structural integrity as the bone density decreases. Often times, complications from the disease can lead to permanent disability, often impairing a person’s unassisted mobility.

Osteoporosis, literally meaning ‘porous bones,’ is a progressive disease that weakens bones and increases the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures. There is enormous loss of bone mass in osteoporosis, which causes the formation of pores in the bones. The disease is far more prevent among women, particularly the menopausal women, than in men.

Prevalence of the disease increases with age, both in men and women, but osteoporosis affects women four times more often than men. Approximately 21% of postmenopausal women in the United States have osteoporosis. People of African descent have high bone mass, and thus lower incidence of osteoporosis than Caucasians.

Hip and vertebral fractures are the most common results of osteoporosis in the aging population. These fractures occur most often in the elderly and are typically a result of a combination of trauma and decreased bone density. Porous bones cannot take the same amount of stress that healthy bones can withstand, and slight falls can lead to traumatic results. Wrist fractures are also common in women with osteoporosis for the same reasons. All of these injuries can lead pain and deformity, in addition to the obvious loss of mobility.

There are several physical characteristics exhibited by those who suffer from osteoporosis. One telltale sign of the disease is the “Dowager’s hump.” This hump in the back is a result of vertebral compression fractures, and it is painful in severe cases. Vertebral compression and the “hump” can also cause irreversible height loss, often as much as two inches. A protruding abdomen is another characteristic of the disease, because curvature of the spine reduces abdominal space, thus causing the intestines to protrude outward. Decreased lung capacity and acid reflux may also develop due to reduction in abdominal space.

People at highest risk for osteoporosis include postmenopausal women, especially with a family history of hip or vertebral fractures, anorexics, those who have had marrow diseases or have suffered spinal cord injuries, those who suffer from Lupus, those with a below healthy weight, and those who smoke cigarettes.

Prevention of osteoporosis in aging populations begins with awareness. Bone density screenings can be performed by your doctor to find out if you are at risk or are in the early stages of osteoporosis. Those at high risk are encouraged to discuss symptoms with their doctors. Women who are within ten years of menopause may take estrogen supplements to help prevent bone loss, as estrogen therapy is highly effective in preventing hip fractures in elderly women.

Osteoporosis is of two types, primary and secondary.

Primary osteoporosis is a disease of old age and occurs generally among menopausal/postmenopausal woman and in men after age 70-75. It may occur because of…

  • Lack of the hormones (estrogen in women and testosterone in men)
  • Lack of nutrition, particularly of calcium and vitamin D
  • Lack of physical activity and sedentary lifestyle

Secondary Osteoporosis may occur in young and middle-aged people. It may occur following use of medications like corticosteroid, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and by exercising on extremes.

The likelihood of development of osteoporosis depends on your bone density by the age 30. Bone formation is an ever-going process. The new bones continuously replace all the old bones in the body. Until you are 30, the extent of bone formation exceeds that for bone breakdown, so by this age the bone density is maximum. Following age 30, the bones are broken down faster than they are rebuilt so there is a decline in the bone density that decreases progressively. Lesser the bone density by age 30 greater the susceptibility to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a ‘silent disease’ that bears no apparent signs or symptoms while it is progressing. People usually become aware of it only when their bones become so weak that a light bump or sneezing causes a fracture or collapses a vertebra. Therefore, regular screening is necessary to check out the progression of disease, especially if you run the risk for this problem.

People at highest risk for osteoporosis include-

  • Women after age 45-50 and men after age 70
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Malnutrition
  • Lack of physical activity
  • A high consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and heavy smoking

Osteoporosis: A Silent Disease

Most people don't think about the health of their skeletons. Our bones have always been there; holding us up and letting us move. However, by the time a person reaches the age of 50, she is at risk for osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone density, which, in turn, causes the bones to be more susceptible to fractures.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million men and women over the age of 50 are afflicted with the disease. Another 34 million are estimated to have low bone mass and at risk for osteoporosis. Of the 10 million who have the disease, 8 million of these are women, making osteoporosis one the most serious health issues facing older women. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to suffer bone fractures due to osteoporosis, making it a serious women's health issue.

Osteoporosis has become a serious enough women's helth issue that in October of 2004, the United States Office of the Surgeon General issued its first report on osteoporosis and bone health. The estimated cost of osteoporosis is $17 billion a year. This includes hospital and nursing home costs, as well as the costs associated with fractures due to low bone mass.

By the time a woman is 20, about 98 percent of her skeleton's mass is in place. By the time a woman is 25, she has virtually stopped building or storing bone mass, and can only maintain or lose it. This is why it is important for women who are concerned with their health to consume the recommended daily allowances of calcium and Vitamin D.

Menopause is the time that bone mass loss for women can really pick up. It is possible to lose 20 percent of a woman's bone mass in the five to seven years immediately following menopause. Women who reach early menopause (another impact on women's health) naturally or through surgical or hormonal means are at an even higher risk of osteoporosis.

Despite its prevalence, osteoporosis is one of the most preventable diseases. The best way to avoid injury and deformities (i.e. stooped posture) due to osteoporosis is to cultivate a healthy lifestyle. While adolescence is the best time for someone to focus on women's health by building healthy bones, progress can be made at any stage in life.

The best ways to prevent osteoporosis and reduce bone mass loss are to eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium, weight-bearing exercise and avoiding unhealthy practices such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Calcium supplements are available in many forms and can aid in ensuring that the proper calcium intake is achieved. The supplement industry recognizes the importance of women's health: Many women's versions of multi-vitamins have a higher amount of calcium.

There are no symptoms to indicate osteoporosis; most women find out they have it too late, when they have experienced a bone fracture. However, there are tests available that can detect bone density and provide a picture of the woman's skeletal health. There are also prescription medications that can help maintain bone density. To prevent osteoporosis a woman should live healthy and have regular check-ups.

Aging > Osteoporosis