On 20 October 2017, World Osteoporosis Day aims to raise international awareness about the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease. This month, Selfmed places a spotlight on Osteoporosis and encourages you to love the bones you’re in through an active and healthy lifestyle to improve your overall wellbeing.
What is Osteoporosis?
The word Osteoporosis means ‘porous bone’ and refers to a bone disease that leaves bones weak and brittle. When viewed under a microscope, healthy bones are believed to resemble a honeycomb structure. However, Osteoporosis results in bones with less density and mass, and the holes of the ‘honeycomb’ appear much bigger than those of healthy bones.
As a result, Osteoporotic bones have a much greater risk of breaking, even as a result of a minor bump or fall. In severe cases, something as simple as a sneeze or sudden movement may result in a fracture. Such fractures may have long-lasting negative repercussions and could even be life-threatening.
Statistics suggest that a staggering one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture. It is therefore vital for anyone with a broken bone over 50 years of age, to chat to your medical practitioner about running a bone density test and understanding your risk of Osteoporosis.
Fractures due to Osteoporosis continue to have a disastrous impact on people from around the world, and especially those living in dire socio-economic conditions where treatment is limited. In fact, every year Osteoporosis is responsible for almost two million bone fractures and billions in financial bills. Countless individuals may be found at risk of Osteoporosis, but sadly, international statistics suggest that only 10% of older women with fractures actually receive osteoporosis therapy.
Often referred to as the silent disease, Osteoporosis has a way of sneaking up on individuals, many of whom will be oblivious about their condition until they experience a fracture. One cannot necessarily feel bones weakening but there are certain signs to be aware of.
A loss in bone mass may result in you experiencing height loss or spinal curving. If you suspect any of these, please do seek medical advice.
In many cases, individuals are only diagnosed after they have suffered a broken bone. Thankfully, due to modern technology, a simple bone density test can now be performed prior to a patient experiencing a fracture. Using x-rays to measure bone density, this quick and pain-free test will enhance the precision of calculating one’s risk of breaking bones. Typically, bone is tested in the spine, hip or sometimes the forearm.
If diagnosed, there are many medical options available to help rebuild your bone density and reduce your risk of fractures. Chat to your healthcare team about available treatments to help you manage the condition.
How can Osteoporosis be prevented?
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can implement today to help lower your risk of developing Osteoporosis as you age. Regular exercise is important to strengthen the muscles and bones. Balance-training, weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises are encouraged to keep your body in good health. It is also important to maintain an ideal body weight to prevent added strain on your bones.
Proper nutrition should be encouraged from a young age, when your bones are still developing. However, it is never too late to change your diet and include a variety of fresh, whole foods that will provide your bones with the necessary vitamins and minerals needed to optimise your bone health.
Calcium is one of the building blocks needed to maintain healthy and growing bones. Be sure to eat a variety of foods that contain calcium, including dairy, green vegetables, fish (those with soft bones such as salmon) and nuts.
Similarly, your diet should include good sources of Vitamin D which is needed to help the body absorb calcium. Foods rich in Vitamin D include eggs, liver and fish.
Avoid negative lifestyle choices such as excessive alcohol abuse and smoking – both may increase your risk of developing illness.
Know the risk factors and follow the lead of your body; if something doesn’t quite feel right, or if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, get it checked out medically and ensure the overall wellbeing of your bones (and body)!