World Osteoporosis Day: Make Bone Health A Priority

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What is it and what does it do to your body?

Osteoporosis is a disease that makes your bones extremely weak and fragile. Growing incidence of osteoporosis has put an immense burden on the community because even though it has no such implication in decreasing the life expectancy, it affects the quality of life significantly. The bones become so weak in fact that even with slightest of stress they can fracture. A lot of people with osteoporosis report fractures as a result of minor accidents. These fractures heal slower than fractures that are caused with healthy bones and many patients become bed bound for a long time.

Normally, the bones are maintained at a consistent density, and this maintenance is an ongoing process. Everyday some bone tissue is resorbed, and some is newly formed. In the initial stages of life, the rate of bone formation is faster than the rate of bone resorption. This leads to eventual buildup of bone density and strength as we grow older. With time, these rates become equal to each other, and the bone density remains constant. Throughout adulthood the bone density remains fairly constant. As we enter the third phase of life, very slowly, but steadily, the rate of bone resorption becomes faster than the rate of bone formation. Due to this imbalance, the bone starts losing some of its density, and hence start to become weaker. Although this process occurs normally in all individuals, in people with a propensity to develop osteoporosis, this normal process becomes accelerated, and leads to the bone density becoming significantly low, leading to weak bones that fracture easily, and heal slowly.

Who’s at risk?

Although the likelihood that a person will develop osteoporosis increases with advancing age, it does not mean that all individuals in their 50s will develop osteoporosis. There are many risk factors that play an important role in the development of the disease. Women are more at risk for this disease than men. Estrogen is a key hormone that regulates the rates of bone formation and resorption, and this can explain why women are at a greater risk for developing osteoporosis. In women that continue to get their monthly cycle, the estrogen levels are high enough to maintain bone strength, however, as women approach menopause (the cessation of monthly menstrual cycles), the estrogen levels in their body drop very low. This sudden drop in estrogen makes the bones lose a lot of density, very quickly. Men of the same age however, do not experience such rapid changes in their hormonal profile, and so they are less likely to develop the disease.

Apart from age and gender, some other important factors that influence the development of osteoporosis include family history, hormonal disorders, dietary deficiencies, medical conditions, and lifestyle choices. A positive family history of osteoporosis is found in many patients, which explains the genetic influence in the development of the disease process. Thyroid, as well as other medical conditions such as Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, lupus, and some others, can all lead to bone weakening. As far as lifestyle goes, people that exercise regularly, especially weight training, have better bone health. And of course, deficiencies in Calcium intake, and vitamin D intake can both help in the progression of the disease.

Preventive Measures:

As discussed earlier in this article, the decline in the quality of life, from osteoporosis, not only affects the individual, but the community as a whole. It leads to immobility in many, otherwise healthy, individuals,s and consequently puts a strain on the society’s resources. October 20th is celebrated globally, as ‘World Osteoporosis Day’ to spread awareness about the certain risk factors, that can make  people susceptible to osteoporosis, and how one can prevent, or at least delay it’s onset by some years, by making some important changes.

Factors such as age, and gender, are obviously not under our control, but some of the following alterations, when made to an individual’s lifestyle, can decrease the risk of osteoporosis development:

     1.Regular exercise, specifically weight lifting, should be made a part of daily routine.

     2.Taking Calcium supplements

     3.Taking vitamin K supplements, can specifically slow down bone loss in women after menopause

     4.Management of underlying chronic conditions such as Celiac disease, Thyroid disease, etc.

     5.Avoid smoking

     6.Avoid alcohol

Even though it isn’t deadly, it is an extremely painful and debilitating disease to have. It is estimated that 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men, over the age of 50, have the disease. This is of particular concern because this is a disease that can be prevented, and so as individuals of this community, we all need to come together to spread knowledge, and encourage everyone to work together to decrease the incidence of this menace.

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