Osteoporosis is a disorder that weakens the bones by causing bone loss, which is called low bone density. Thus, low bone density causes bones to become extremely fragile. This disorder makes bones so weak and porous that they become compressible just like sponge, thereby weakening the skeleton. Individuals suffering with osteoporosis are, oftentimes, more prone to fracturing their bones. The slightest injury could cause a fracture.
In osteoporosis, the most common type of fracture is the crumbling within the spinal column; these types of fractures are called compression fractures. The mere weight of the bones and tissue on top of a weak spot in the spinal column can cause enough compression to cause compression fractures.
You may notice people who have osteoporosis have a hump between their neck and shoulder area. This is caused by osteoporotic fractures in the cervical spine. Osteoporotic fractures can also occur in the hips; thus, as the skeleton weakens from bone loss, you may be at risk for osteoporotic fractures in your wrists, ribs, and ankles. It is possible to break a bone in your foot or ankle, just by walking. The mere weight of standing on your feet could be enough to cause an osteoporotic fracture.
What are bones made of?
The outer, strong part of your bones is composed of calcium, protein and collagen; they get their strength from these substances. Building healthy and strong bones requires a dietary intake of calcium in adequate quantities from early childhood to the adolescent years for both genders. Vitamin D allows for calcium to be absorbed through the small intestine. Lack of Vitamin D will decrease absorption of dietary calcium, and then bone density may be reduced. Your body has to have calcium to maintain blood pressure, nerve and muscle function; if your body can’t get calcium from dietary means it will take it from your bones. Therefore, adequate amount of both Vitamin D and dietary Calcium is essential for strong and healthy bones.
Who gets osteoporosis?
Two most common categories – of the population – likely to get osteoporosis are women after their menopause and elderly people. Women loose 2-4% bone density per year during first 5-10 years after their menopause due to estrogen level drop. Women are most likely to get osteoporosis due to this accelerated loss of bone density after their menopausal years. After age of 35 both men and women loose bone density at rate of 0.3-0.5 % per year. This results in weaker bones as age increases. Therefore, elderly people of both genders are almost equally as likely to get osteoporosis.
Is osteoporosis genetic?
Bone density is genetic. Your genetic makeup determines what your bone mass will be. Chances are, if your mother suffered a hip fracture due to osteoporosis, you may also develop osteoporosis and be at risk for similar fractures. Anyone can develop low bone density; therefore anyone can be at risk for developing osteoporosis.
The following categories of people are likely to have osteoporosis:
Individuals with a small or thin body frame
Individuals with a history of bone fractures during childhood/adulthood
Individuals who are heavy smokers
Individuals who drink excessively
Individuals in poor health
Individuals who don’t have access to enough healthy food
Individuals with hyperthyroidism and hyperparathyroidism
Overall effect of osteoporosis:
Osteoporosis affects overall quality of life and increases the risk of an early death. Hip fractures due to osteoporosis leads to pain, disability and overall decreased quality of life. Elderly people are at risk to develop pulmonary embolism; this can occur in people who have deep vein thrombosis (Blood clot in leg veins that travels up to lungs) due to prolonged rest after a fracture. Those recovering from osteoporotic fractures are also at risk to develop pneumonia. It has been observed that 20% women have died within one year after hip fracture due to osteoporosis. Once osteoporotic fractures of the vertebrae have occurred, future fractures, due to osteoporosis are likely.
We must be able to bear weight on our feet to maintain the calcium in our bones. Exercise has many benefits to helping people with osteoporosis. It is possible for bone density to improve by up to 1 percent or 2 percent after one makes healthy lifestyle changes.
A lifestyle that includes exercise, including walking, will improve muscle strength as well as balance of the body. Exercise can reduce your risk of falling, thereby, reducing your chances of suffering bone fractures. Some doctors suggest weight training as well as walking to be helpful to prevent or counter osteoporosis. Excessive exercises, like marathon running, may not be healthy for the bones.
It is important to follow your doctor’s advice about lifestyle changes. Many people already live fairly healthy lifestyles. It could be only minimal changes would need to be made. Oftentimes, we know whether we are living a healthy lifestyle or not. We also know, if we are living healthily, there may be some areas we can improve on.
Author’s note: I have osteoporosis. I have made some lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. I have increased the amount of dietary calcium and vitamin D. I take extra amounts of Vitamin D in the form of pills and calcium chews. I know there are areas I need to be more consistent with. For instance, I am writing so much that I have little time to get outside to soak up some Vitamin D from the sunshine. My diet sometimes isn’t as healthy as it should be. I start out with a healthy diet (Weight Watchers) and then I will run out of money before I run out of month. Therefore, I stay at this computer banging out articles, which keeps me in this cycle of too little exercise to keep my bone density stable.