Osteoporosis is a condition of bone characterised by low bone mass and loss of bone tissue that may lead to weak and fragile bone. People suffering from osteoporosis have an increased risk of bone fracture. Statistically fracture occurs in every one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 years due to osteoporosis.
Every year October 20 is observed as World Osteoporosis Day launching a year-long campaign dedicated to raising global awareness about osteoporosis.
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis
The most important risk factor for osteoporosis is advanced age. Though osteoporosis can affect people of all ages, it is far more common in older people. This is an unmodifiable risk factor. Women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. About one in three women over the age of 50 years will break a bone because of osteoporosis. People who are shorter in size and have thinner bones are more likely to develop osteoporosis and those who have a broken bone or height loss due to any cause, are more prone to develop osteoporosis.
Lifestyle factors affecting bone health
Calcium is a mineral that is needed for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium is essential for bone formation and remodeling. In absence of adequate calcium, bone formation is insufficient and bone remodeling is also inadequate. Circulatory vitamin D deficiency is common among elderly people worldwide. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased parathyroid hormone (PTH) production.
Nutrition has an important and complex role in the maintenance of healthy bones, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and zinc play a role in bone remodeling. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin K can maintain a healthy bone and prevent the development of osteoporosis.
Many diseases and some drugs are associated with the development of osteoporosis. Important ones include hypogonadal state, endocrine disorders like Cushing’s syndrome, hyperparathyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, and drugs include steroids, barbiturates and phenytoin.
How osteoporosis can be prevented
The most important and natural method for the prevention of osteoporosis is to change or modify the lifestyle habits responsible for it.
Since osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease its first line of attack occurs when people, especially menopausal women and elderly men lose their bone density rapidly. This is countered or prevented by a lifelong focus on load-bearing exercise that stimulates the bone cell to increase the bone density. Weight-bearing exercise causes the muscle to pull on the bone while creating leaner muscle which in turn may positively affect joint mobility and flexibility. So making denser bones through stress bearing exercises increase the chances of preventing osteoporosis.
Recommended daily dose of calcium varies from 1000-1300 mg. This calcium needs to be taken with Vitamin D as it helps in calcium absorption by the body. Adequate calcium and Vitamin D taken together throughout the day reduces bone loss and positively stimulate bone density. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can optimise bone health and help to prevent osteoporosis later in life.
Find out risk factor for osteoporosis, get tested and treated for any such factors. People who are at risk of osteoporosis need to find out their risk factor for osteoporosis. They are required to get tested whether their bones are osteoporotic and if they require any treatment for it.
The best way to test for osteoporosis is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan (DEXA Scan). It can determine the level of bone density.
So, building adequate bone mass in childhood and adolescent period, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits throughout life, weight-bearing exercise and taking adequate nutritious diet may help in preventing osteoporosis.
The writer is a Professor of Orthopaedics.