World Osteoporosis Day
Osteoporosis means “porous bones,” i.e., bones that are brittle, weak and have a decreased mass and density. These bones are highly susceptible to fractures and, over a period of time, can cause extreme pain and discomfort in the spine, the ribs, the wrists and the hips.
Since the bone density is considerably lower, the bones encasing the spinal cord turn fragile and crush each other, causing the spine to curve. This leads to a humpback, loss of height and breathing troubles as well, because there is too little space under the ribs.
It is estimated that across the world, 33% of women and 8% of men over the age of 50 suffer from this condition. Based on the cause, osteoporosis can be classified into three major types –
- Primary Osteoporosis – This is a common occurrence among people aged 45 and above. As testosterone production slows down in men and estrogen production diminishes in women, the bones become more vulnerable. Also, this condition occurs more commonly in women because, to begin with, women are born with a lower bone density than men.
- Secondary Osteoporosis – This arises when the bones are affected due to illnesses like leukemia, hyperthyroidism or due to the intake of strong medications like steroids. This can happen to anyone at any age.
- Juvenile Osteoporosis – This is a rare condition that either affects someone at birth or between the ages of 8 and 14 during the rapid development phase of the body.
Our body is constantly regenerating bones. A new one is created as the old one decays. During our youth, new bones are generated quicker than the decaying of old bones occurs, leading to an increase in bone density. The higher this bone density at a young age, the lower is the risk of osteoporosis at an older age.
In spite of a higher bone density at youth, certain factors can still impact our bone health:
- Family history – Osteoporosis, like many other conditions, runs in the family. Your risk is immediately higher if a parent or sibling has this condition.
- Smaller bodies – People who have a smaller body frame are at a higher risk because they have less bone mass as they age.
- Hormones – As mentioned, hormonal changes impact bone strength. Hence, a decrease in hormone levels, either by natural causes or by medication due to cancer, can lead to osteoporosis.
- Lifestyle choices – People who follow a sedentary lifestyle, who consume less calcium or who rely on a heavy intake of steroids are all prone to weaker bones as they age. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption has also been noted to worsen our bone health.
- Medical conditions – Thyroid is a major contributor to weakness in the bones. In certain cases, gastrointestinal surgeries can also lead to this condition as any elimination of the intestine affects the absorption of calcium.
Osteoporosis can be cured using appropriate treatments that include hormone therapy or medication. But, in order to prevent the condition, a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise, a good intake of calcium and vitamin D is a must!