Health Info: What is Osteoporosis?

Did you know that 54 million Americans have low bone density? Left untreated, it can lead to fractures, which is one of the main reasons for hospital admission among seniors.

Not only that, but it can also increase your risk of osteoporosis. 

Were you recently diagnosed with the disease? Looking for some health info on the condition? If so, you’re on the right page.

We’ll be going over everything that you need to know about osteoporosis below. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease in which there’s a decrease in bone density; it occurs when the body removes more bone than it builds. As a result, the bone becomes weak and fragile, leaving it susceptible to fractures.

For example, it may break from a fall or from a minor bump in more severe cases. The most commonly affected bones include the hips, ribs, spine, and wrist. 

While it’s more common among older people, especially women, it can sometimes affect young people in their 30s and 40s.

Signs of Osteoporosis 

The early stages of osteoporosis don’t usually cause any symptoms. In fact, most people with the condition won’t even know that they have it until they have a fracture.

With that said, some people may experience warning signs such as receding gums, weak and brittle nails, and weakened grip strength. Not only that, but it can also cause pain in the lower back, loss of height (usually of an inch or more), and a change in posture.

In some cases, compressed disks can also lead to a smaller lung capacity, which can cause shortness of breath.

Risk Factors 

Age is the biggest risk factor for osteoporosis. As you get older (once you reach your 30s), your body will start breaking down bone faster than it’s able to replace it. That’s why the condition is so common among older adults.

Menopause can also increase your risk of the condition. In fact, most women will undergo rapid bone loss in the first 10 years after entering menopause.

This is due to a drop in estrogen, which plays a crucial role in bone formation. As a result, the body won’t be able to effectively produce bone.

Other risk factors include poor nutrition, physical inactivity, smoking, and low body weight. Having a family history of osteoporosis can also put you at a higher risk of developing the disease.

Diagnosing Osteoporosis 

The doctor will measure your bone density using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). It involves using a machine that will use low levels of X-rays to measure the density of the bones in your hips, wrists, or spine. It can also be used to assess your risk for developing osteoporotic fractures.

Not only is the procedure painless, but it also requires little to no special preparation. All you have to do is lie on a padded table as a scanner passes over your body. In most cases, it’ll take between 10 to 30 minutes.

Treating Osteoporosis 

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for osteoporosis. However, there are treatments that can help manage the disease.

For example, your doctor may prescribe bisphosphonates, which may be taken orally or by injection. The first-line treatment for osteoporosis, these drugs can help prevent the loss of bone mass by slowing down the bone-resorption action of bone-eroding cells.

There are also anabolic therapies for osteoporosis, which work by rebuilding bone and increasing bone mass. That way, more bone will be formed than is taken away.

Dangers of Osteoporosis 

Hip fractures are one of the most serious complications of osteoporosis. Not only are they painful and debilitating, but studies have shown that they can also increase an individual’s mortality rate by five to eight times within the first year of injury.

Assuming that the person is bedridden, they may also be at a higher risk for cardiovascular complications such as stroke, hypertension, and coronary heart disease. Staying in bed for long periods can also increase their risk of blood clots, pneumonia, and other infectious diseases.

Not to mention that the loss of independence can also bring on depression, which can hinder their ability to manage the condition.

Preventing Osteoporosis 

Exercising regularly can reduce the rate of bone loss. More specifically, weight-bearing exercises such as walking, jogging, hiking, and dancing can reduce your risk of osteoporosis by improving your bone density. The same goes for resistant exercises such as weight lifting and squats.

Getting enough calcium and vitamin D is also important. The former is needed to maintain strong bones, while the latter is necessary for its absorption.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women over the age of 51 (and men over the age of 71) should get 1,200mg of calcium per day. Good sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, soy products, canned salmon, and low-fat dairy products.

Those above the age of 60 should also get 800 to 1000 IU of vitamin D a day, either through food or supplements.

For example, cereals, oatmeal, orange juice, and soy milk are often fortified with vitamin D.

Health Info: Understanding Osteoporosis 

And there you have it—a health info article about osteoporosis. As you can see, it can lead to various complications, from fractures to infections. The good news is that there are different ways to prevent and treat the condition, from exercising to taking the right medications.

Looking for more content like this? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our health section!

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