In present times, where most of us follow a sedentary lifestyle with lack of physical activity and rely on processed and ready to eat meals, weight gain, backache, joint pain and muscle aches have become common health problems. So, it is really difficult to tell who is suffering from bone weakness and bone loss until and unless a bone density test is being done. Osteoporosis is one of the predominant bone diseases in which the quality and density of bones is reduced, which in turn makes them weak and brittle – more likely to fracture. The worst thing about this disease is that it usually shows no prominent symptoms. It is caused due to increasing age, a diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D, deficiency of oestrogen in women and excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. But there is no need to panic because there are certain steps that you can take to prevent and even slow down the progress of osteoporosis, improve bone density and reverse it to some degree.
Causes of Osteoporosis
There are a number of factors that increases the risk of osteoporosis.
- Increasing Age – Osteoporosis is more common in older men and women because they have low bone mass.
- Female Gender – Women are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis compared to men because of low estrogen levels after menopause and during irregular periods.
- Thin Built – Women with small and thin built and frail body structures are at greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Ethnicity – White and Asian women are at greater risk of osteoporosis compared to black and Hispanic women.
- Family History – Family history or genetics is one of the main osteoporosis causes, and this disorder tends to run in families.
- Poor Diet – A diet deficient in calcium and vitamin D increases the chances of bone loss.
- Sedentary Lifestyle – Inactive lifestyle with lack of exercise leads to weak bones.
- Smoking and Drinking alcohol – Prolonged smoking and too much alcohol consumption leads to bone loss and can cause Osteoporosis.
- Sex Hormones – Deficiency of oestrogen in post-menopausal women and deficiency of testosterone in men can bring on osteoporosis.
- Medication – Long term use of thyroid medications, epilepsy medications and corticosteroids can lead to brittle bones.
- Medical Conditions – Certain medical conditions such as endocrine diseases, blood disorders and rheumatoid arthritis aggravates the risk of osteoporosis.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
The question of how to prevent osteoporosis is best answered through a healthy and balanced diet and regular exercise. Following are some of the practical preventive measures to reduce the chances of bone loss and weak bones.
Exercise - One of the best ways to develop strong bones, stimulate new bone formation and reduce bone loss is to engage in weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, dancing, aerobics, water aerobics and yoga. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise 3 times a week for beginners. But you should consult a doctor before beginning any exercise to ensure that the proposed exercise is safe to undertake.
Diet - Diet plays an important role in osteoporosis treatment and prevention. The body is not able to make its own calcium. Therefore, it is mandatory to follow a diet rich in calcium to slow down the rate of bone loss. Vitamin D plays an equally essential role as calcium because it enables the body to absorb calcium in an effective manner. Foods high in calcium include dairy products, dark green vegetables, soy products, nuts, cereals, legumes and beans. Foods rich in vitamin D include tuna, sardines and eggs.
Exposure to Sunlight - The sun is the best source of vitamin D for the body and doctors often recommend daily 15 minutes of sun exposure for sufficient vitamin D production in the body. But the time of sun exposure depends on the patient’s skin type, geographical location and the season.
Reduce the Risk of Fractures - People suffering from osteoporosis should be extra careful with their movements and daily activities to minimize the risk of falls and fractures. Those who are unsteady on the feet can use mobility aids to move about in the house. Hazardous objects that can lead to falls should be removed from the way; handrails should be installed in entrance ways and bathrooms.
Supplements - Supplementation is the only solution in case of insufficient dietary intake of calcium. The doctor may prescribe calcium supplements to increase the amount of calcium in the body. The daily recommended dosage of calcium is 1000 mg. Because vitamin D is essential for optimum absorption of calcium in the bones, so a vitamin D supplement such as calciferol can also be given in conjunction with calcium supplements.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for osteoporosis, and therefore, prevention is always a better option than treatment. Maximizing bone density in early and middle life can reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
All the treatments – medicines, injections and vaccines are for general information of the reader. Please consult a doctor and get a formal prescription before taking any medicines, supplements and injections.
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