Osteoporosis – Especially Women must know about this Silent Killer
Posted On: April 10, 2018
Osteoporosis is defined as the health condition in which the bones become weak that can increase the risk of abrupt and accidental fractures.
As a word, osteoporosis stands for "porous bone," that causes increased loss of bone strength and mass. In most cases, osteoporosis progresses gradually and causes no symptoms or pain.
The bone loss takes place over an extended period of time. It mostly comes under diagnostic stage when the weakened bones lead to painful fractures in the hips or back. And by this phase, osteoporosis already reaches the advanced stage where the damage is very grave.
And once you experience a fracture owing to osteoporosis, you stand at a higher risk of suffering from a fracture again.
Though a complex condition, osteoporosis can be prevented and treated with ease if proper steps are taken care of. But before we delve into the treatment and prevention, let’s understand basics of osteoporosis and how it is associated with Women Health.
Who suffers from Osteoporosis?
Though osteoporosis can occur in both men and women, facts state that women are more prone to suffer from osteoporosis as compared to their male counterparts.
If the worldwide data is considered, then around 1 in 3 women above 50 years of age experience osteoporotic fractures, whereas in men the ratio is 1:5. In India, a study done in 2013 revealed that around 50 million people are either suffering from osteoporosis or have low bone mass. Osteoporosis cases studied in India found the condition prevalent in 24.6% of men and 42.5% of women above 50 years of age.
Why women are prone to osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis mostly affects women because they have:
- Smaller, thinner and less dense bones as compared to men
- Longer life than men and bone loss takes place gradually
- Tendency of losing more bone mass post menopause due to lesser levels of estrogen
While osteoporosis is known to occur in women above age 50, young women and girls can also suffer from the condition. This is why it is advisable for women of all ages to take care of their bone health.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis takes place due to the imbalance that occurs between formation of new bone and reabsorbtion of the old bone. The body sometimes fails to form abundance of new bones, or excess of old bone gets reabsorbed. In some cases, both scenarios can occur.
For normal bone formation, calcium and phosphate are the two essentially required minerals. Your body continues to use these minerals throughout the youth.
Calcium is even necessary for the proper functioning of your heart, brain, and other vital organs. For easing the functioning of all crucial organs, your body reabsorbs the calcium stored in the bones for maintaining calcium levels in blood. When your calcium is not adequate or the body fails to absorb the required amount of calcium from the diet, it can hamper the production of bone as well as affect the bone tissues.
This makes the bones weaker, which can make them fragile and brittle and prone to breakage.
Apart from the deficiency of calcium, another leading cause of osteoporosis is said to be the dearth of some hormones, inclusive of estrogen in females and androgen in men.
Insufficient intake of vitamin D, lack of physical activity and various other age-related changes that take place in endocrine functions can also lead to osteoporosis.
Some health conditions that can increase your risk of suffering from osteoporosis include the overuse of corticosteroids, bone cancer, thyroid problems, lack of muscle use, some genetic disorders and use of certain medications.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
As said, women are prone to osteoporosis than men and there are certain risk factors that can subject them to this condition. These risk factors include:
Age: In general, osteoporosis progresses with growing age and is most likely to surface when you are above 50. Your bone mass will start declining once you turn 30 and it will continue to happen if proper care is not taken.
Ethnicity: As per several studies, it has been seen that Caucasian and Asian women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Moreover, hip fractures also occur more in Caucasian women than African-American women. Bone structure & body weight: Women who are petite and thin have higher risk of suffering from osteoporosis, partially owing to the fact that they’ve less bone to lose as compared to women who have more body weight and larger frames.
Menopause: If you have reached menopause or are in the pre-menopause stage, you will be at a risk of suffering from osteoporosis.
lifestyle: Following an unhealthy lifestyle which includes not being physically active and not taking care of healthy diet, can subject your bones to osteoporosis. If your calcium intake is also less and your everyday diet lacks the required nutrients and vitamins, you’re likely to suffer from osteoporosis.
Smoking and alcohol consumption: Both smoking and heavy alcohol consumption can impact your bone density. Over a period of time, you will be subjected to severe bone damage and osteoporosis.
Family history: Heredity also plays a major role in subjecting you to osteoporosis and this is why it is also considered to be one of the prime risk factors of bone mass lose. If anyone in your family, parents or grandparents, have suffered osteoporosis, you may also stand at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Certain medical conditions: There are some diseases that can increase your risk of suffering from osteoporosis. These include diabetes, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel, depression and premature ovarian failure.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
As stated above, osteoporosis doesn’t cause any symptoms in the initial stage. Symptoms will only surface when you experience a fracture in the bone. A fracture usually can occur in any bone of your body. However, they are mostly common in the wrist, hip and spine. Spine is the crucial organ that helps your body by providing the needed support for standing and sitting up.
If you have spinal osteoporosis, it can lead to serious problems. A fracture in the spine can affect your everyday activities such as lifting objects, climbing stairs, or bending forward.
Spine fractures can even make it collapse and bend forward. And when this happens, you will experience symptoms as:
- back pain
- leaning shoulders
- curve in the back
- height loss
- hunched posture
The link between Osteoporosis and Menopause & Estrogen
Like the various problems caused by hormones, inclusive of migraines and mood swings, osteoporosis also has a link with your hormones. While there are various genetic as well as environmental factors that lead to bone loss, the changing levels of hormones in your body, particularly estrogen, can also trigger osteoporosis.
Estrogen hormone aids in regulating your reproductive cycle and also plays a crucial role in keeping our bones healthy and strong. As you progress towards menopause, the level of estrogen starts dropping. And as you reach the menopause stage, you experience a dramatic drop in estrogen level. As estrogen production is lessened, your bones become susceptible to osteoporosis.
You will be at risk of developing osteoporosis due to dropping estrogen levels if you:
- have irregular or infrequent periods
- had your periods at a later age than usual
- had your ovaries removed
- are experiencing menopause
As osteoporosis doesn’t cause any symptoms, the diagnosis is often done at a later stage when the damage becomes very severe. This is the reason; osteoporosis is often termed as the silent killer.
However, with help of certain painless procedures that will offer information about your bone health and osteoporosis, problem can be detected before it actually begins. You can undergo the Bone mineral density (BMD) tests, or bone measurements, which are X- ray based, where small radiation amount is used to detect the bone strength.
You will be recommended a bone mineral density test only if:
- You are above 65 years of age
- You’ve several risk factors related to osteoporosis
- You’ve attained menopause and have experienced bone fractures
How to Prevent Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis affects your bones, which are the support system of your whole body. If the bones are not in best of shape and condition, carrying out the day-to-day activities can become very difficult.
While there are medicines and treatment modalities to manage osteoporosis, preventing it at the very first place is highly advisable. Reversing the bone damage is never a possibility and hence it is important that you take great care of your bones so as to protect them from the damaging effects of osteoporosis.
Some of the commonly recommended ways by healthcare experts in preventing osteoporosis include:
Regular exercise: Forming a regular exercise program is very important. It can make your bones and muscles stronger while also helping to prevent bone loss. Exercise is good for your overall health and for the bones, it can do wonders. It can even improve your mobility and flexibility. You should aim at doing weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking, jogging, skipping dancing or playing tennis at least 3-4 times a week. It can help prevent osteoporosis and strengthen your bones. Moreover, doing exercises focused at building body strength and balance can help you to avoid falls thus reducing your chances of breaking a bone.
Calcium intake: For healthy and strong bones, it is very essential that your intake of calcium is high. You should eat foods that are rich in calcium such as dairy products like low-fat cheese and yogurt. Green leafy vegetables like broccoli and collard greens are also rich sources of calcium. For low-to-average risk of developing osteoporosis, 1,000mg of calcium per day is recommended.
Vitamin D: No matter how much calcium you intake, it won’t be utilized if you lack Vitamin D. Human body uses vitamin D to absorb the calcium. However, most people happen to be vitamin D deficient. To ensure that your body has the required amount of vitamin D, you should consider eating food rich in vitamin D like cereal, milk fortified with vitamin D, eggs, fatty fishes like salmon. The most vital source of vitamin D is sun, if you can spend around 20 minutes in sun everyday, your body will have enough stock of vitamin D.
Supplements: If your body lacks vitamin D levels, then the calcium won’t be absorbed and your bones will not get the required strength. To ensure your body has sufficient levels of vitamin D, you should consider getting it checked. If the levels are not up to the mark, you will be advised to take vitamin D supplements. Calcium supplements can also be taken if there is a deficiency of calcium in body. The ideal level of calcium as required in a day is 2,000 mg for people who are aged 51. Younger adults can have it around 2500 mg.
Medications: If you happen to be at higher risk of fractures, then you will be recommended to take bisphosphonates and raloxifene (Evista), which are taken orally. These help in preventing osteoporosis.
Stay away from high risk medicines: Certain medicines can subject you to osteoporosis. Steroids, certain breast cancer treatments, drugs for treating seizures, blood thinners, and thyroid medications are known to increase the rate of bone loss. If you are taking any of these medicines then you should consult your doctor to know the right way of preventing any bone loss.
Quit smoking & alcohol: Smoking inhibits the production of estrogen in your body. This is why it is recommended that you quit it completely. Alcohol is known to damage the bones and subject them to breakage and fall. It would be better to limit the intake of alcohol and if you can stop it completely, there’s nothing better than that.
Foods to eat with osteoporosis
Some of the foods you must include in your diet to manage osteoporosis include:
Dairy products: Rich in calcium, certain dairy products are even fortified with vitamin D. You should consider eating yogurt, cheese, low-fat and non-fat milk.
Fishes: They can be an excellent source of calcium. Eat canned sardines and salmon (with bones) along with fatty varieties like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines.
Fruits and vegetables: Along with calcium, they are rich sources of other vital nutrients. For calcium, you can eat collard greens, kale, turnip greens, okra, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, dandelion greens and broccoli. Among fruits, you can eat papaya, oranges, pineapples and grapefruits.
Fortified Foods: Certain juice brands, soy milk, cereals, rice milk, breads and breakfast foods come with added calcium and vitamin D.
Foods to avoid with osteoporosis
- Foods rich in salt can lead to calcium and bone loss. Avoid salty foods.
- If you are addicted to alcohol, limit the consumption to not more than two drinks in a day. Excess of alcohol can damage the bones.
- Caffeine in coffee, tea, as well as soda is known to decrease calcium absorption which can lead to bone loss.
- Soft drinks also contain caffeine along with phosphorous which can lead to bone loss.
- Limit the intake of food products rich in oxalate as spinach because they don’t allow the absorption of calcium.
Treating OsteoporosisIf you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, your healthcare provider may offer you the most suitable treatment depending on your overall health and the severity of the problem. Some of the commonly used treatment methods include:
- Medications which will include alendronate, ibandronate raloxifene, zoledronic and risedronate
- If the condition is not very severe, then the focus will be on preventing the progression of osteoporosis. For this, you may be recommended calcium and vitamin D supplements.
- For mild cases of osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercises will also be recommended that will help in making the bones stronger.
- Injectable abaloparatide, teriparatide or PTH will be given for rebuilding bone.
- Injectable denosumab are given to women who are at higher risk of fracture and when drugs fail to work in improving the condition.
- In some cases, hormone therapy is also recommended to treat osteoporosis
What is hormone therapyy?
As the hormone estrogen is linked with bone loss in women who have attained menopause, hormone therapy using estrogen alone or in combination with progestin is given to prevent or alleviate the rapid loss of bone which can lead to osteoporosis.
Though hormone therapy helps menopausal women by providing them with the required amount of hormones, the process has its share of side effects that can lead to other health complications. Hormone therapy is known to increase the risk of heart disease, breast cancer and stroke.
If you are considering a hormone therapy, it is very important that you speak to your doctor and understand the possible risks or seek suggestion in regards to other treatment options.
Alternatives to Hormone Therapy
Given the risks associated with hormone therapy, there are certain alternatives recommended. These include:
Reloifene: A selective estrogen receptor modulator, also known as SERM, it has several properties like that of estrogen. It can prevent and treat osteoporosis while also preventing bone loss at the hip, spine, and other body areas. The drug can even cut down the vertebral fractures rate by 30%-50%.
Bisphosphonates: It includes drugs like alendronate, ibandronate, risedronate and zoledronic acid which can help in preventing or treating osteoporosis. These drugs can even help with spine fractures.
Mostly women tend to neglect their health while catering to the needs of everyone around. Amidst the daily struggles of life, they seldom get time to look after themselves or care for their health.
Like the various health problems, osteoporosis can also pave way for different health complications in women. It can silently damage the bones and make them weak and prone to breakage easily.
And as it mostly affects older women, it is very important that their health is given priority and is checked properly. A little care and precaution can help in preventing the condition and restoring bone health. Along with a healthy diet, women must ensure that they indulge in regular exercise routine. The battle with osteoporosis can be difficult but it’s definitely not impossible. All it needs is a little effort in taking care of health.
At Shalby Hospitals, we specialize in handling various women health problems, inclusive of osteoporosis, under our Health program “Well Woman” Our team of expert doctors will not just help in diagnosing the precise cause of bone loss, but can even recommend the right treatment plan, taking into consideration your long-term health. Moreover, our experts can even help you with the ideal diet plan that can help in making your bones stronger and healthy.
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