Got a kink in your back you’re tempted to crack? You might want to rethink that. As we age, we slowly lose bone density and our bones become weaker and more prone to fractures. This condition that affects bone strength is called Osteoporosis and is one of the most common bone diseases, responsible for over 8.9 million fractures a year. This number continues to grow and it is of the utmost importance for everyone to take certain measures to prevent osteoporosis from ever occurring.
Osteoporosis affects both men and women, although women are four times more likely to develop it. Specifically, one in four men and one in two women are likely to have a fracture due to osteoporosis after the age of 50. Caucasian and Asian women past menopause, are at the highest risk of osteoporosis but, nevertheless, the disease can affect people of all ages and races.
What Causes Osteoporosis?
Bones are made of collagen and calcium, the combination of which provides bones with strength and flexibility. The inside of a bone, called trabecular bone, looks like a sponge, around which the hard bone, called cortical bone, is wrapped. When osteoporosis occurs, the trabecular bone weakens due to a loss of bone bass, which makes it look like the “holes” in the “sponge” become larger.
When you are young, your body breaks down and rebuilds bones much faster when it needs more calcium. It’s called “bone remodeling” and it provides the body with the calcium it needs while keeping the bones strong. Your body builds more bone mass than it loses up until the age of 30.
After the age of 35, your body breaks down bones much faster than it rebuilds them, which causes a loss of bone mass. That causes your bones to become less dense and weaker, thus more prone to fractures.
What Are the Risk Factors for Osteoporosis?
One of the risk factors for osteoporosis is age, since bone mass declines naturally over time. Another risk factor is gender. Women over 50 and women in menopause are more likely to be affected by osteoporosis since menopause slows the production of estrogen, which protects the bones against bone loss.
Body weight is also one of the risk factors, for extremely underweight people, chances of being affected by osteoporosis are higher due to very low estrogen levels and poor diet. Race and family history also contribute to the possibility of increased bone loss.
Nutrition and lifestyle can greatly affect the chances of developing osteoporosis, so it is extremely important to always provide your body with enough calcium and vitamin D. Smoking and alcohol use, also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, as well as certain medications that can damage bones, such as steroids and treatments for breast cancer.
Certain medical conditions can also increase the chances for osteoporosis, such as an overactive thyroid, anorexia, coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease and more.
How Can Osteoporosis Be Prevented?
Diet and lifestyle are very important for maintaining healthy and strong bones. You need to supply your body with calcium, the sources of which are dairy products (particularly milk, yogurt, and hard cheese), salmon, sardines, kale, broccoli, spinach, watercress, dried figs, dried apricots, and bread.
You also need vitamin D, which you can find in salmon, mackerel, tuna fish and sardines, but the best source of it is the sun, so make sure you always get enough sun exposure, as the ultraviolet rays trigger the skin to make vitamin D.
If you are a smoker, you should make an effort to stop smoking, as chemicals in tobacco can weaken the bones. Also, if you happen to drink more than four units of alcohol daily, you should try and cut down on your alcohol intake.
Exercise can help prevent osteoporosis, as it strengthens the bones, so make sure you always stay physically active, regardless of your age. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, dancing and aerobics, are very important ones to take part in, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises.
These measures can either prevent or greatly slow down any bone loss, so make sure you take each and every one of them to ensure your bones remain strong.
Start taking care of your bones right now and prevent any health problem from ever even occurring. If you happen to have some of the risk factors for osteoporosis, make sure you undergo medical tests that can help determine your bone density. You can schedule an appointment and meet our orthopedic and physiotherapy team, as you will certainly receive the best healthcare you need.