Osteoporosis: Can I Feel it in My Bones ?
The symptoms of osteoporosis are not always visible or easily noticeable. In fact, human bones do not physiologically produce any indications that there is a problem with density (unless there is a bone fracture). The average person may not be aware that his or her bones have become frail until they encounter a fracture. Often times, a broken bone can be suffered from just a minor fall. If the bones are severely brittle even a simple movement such as a sneeze could break one. The most common area of the first indication of osteoporosis is a fracture in the vertebral column causing significant back pain. Also, some people experience ‘kyphosis’ or more often known as a stooped back. This is the major cause of the decrease in height that the elderly experience. However, not all people who have osteoporosis experience this.
There are two theories on how the disease develops. In the first theory, the bone-forming cells called osteoblasts fail to produce more cells. The second theory is that there is an increased activity of the osteoclasts, which causes uncontrolled resorption and release of minerals. Whichever the case, there are several risk factors known to increase the likelihood of osteoporosis from occurring. These factors are further broken into two categories: ‘modifiable factors’ and ‘non-modifiable factors’.
Non-modifiable factors (aspects of one’s life that cannot be changed):
Age. Osteoporosis more commonly occurs in people that are older than fifty years of age.
Gender. Osteoporosis is more prevalent in women than in men. Women are more likely to develop some form of osteoporosis late in life. Although osteoporosis commonly occurs in women, there are still the possibilities of men acquiring the disease. Two million American men are affected by osteoporosis every year.
Genetics. There is a greater probability of acquiring the disease when the family’s medical history reveals that a parent suffered from it. If there is a history of osteoporosis in your family get regular checkups to determine your risk level and begin preventative treatment early.
History of Fracture. For every bone fracture one experiences in life the likelihood of having the disease increases. In fact, people who have broken a bone in adulthood have a 86% increased risk of obtaining another fracture. Fractures can be an indication of the disease or predispose one to increased risk of complications.
Race and Ethnicity. The incidence of osteoporosis is more common in Caucasians and in those of Asian descent or people of African descent.
Menopause or Hysterectomy. Menopause is the cessation of the menstrual period and usually occurs in a woman’s life beginning in her 40s. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure typically done after menopause to remove the reproductive organs to prevent ovarian cancers. Women who have undergone this procedure should be aware of their bone health since their estrogen levels will change post menopause. Research has identified that five to seven years after menopause a woman experiences 20% bone density loss, thus making them more at risk to for osteoporosis.
Long-term corticosteroids therapy. Fracture risk is increased with long term steroid usage.
Diet. There are several vitamins and minerals that can help affect bone loss. We go more into vitamins and supplements later in the guide.
Calcium. This vitamin not only supports the strength of the bones but it is also highly essential for healthy cell activity. Consult your doctor about what the correct dose is for you.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is complementary to calcium. This is utilized by the body in order to fully absorb and store calcium. Vitamin D deficiency might result in bone loss.
Caffeine. Naturally found in coffee, energy drinks, soda and tea, excessive caffeine intake may cause a decrease of calcium absorption. Limit caffeine use.
Protein. Eating healthily is very important for our body’s tissue repair. Protein especially is a must have so our body achieves equilibrium. However, protein intake higher than the recommended allowance can cause excretion of calcium through the kidneys. 2-3 servings of protein rich foods such as meats and beans is the optimal amount.
Sedentary Lifestyle. It goes without saying that exercise helps improve bone strength. Leading a sedentary lifestyle means spending most of the day in a seated or supine (lying on the back) position. Just as muscles benefit from use so do bones. Spend at least 30 minutes a day exercising in some way. This could include walking to the store, or walking to lunch, instead of driving.
Smoking. The effect of smoking can worsen osteoporosis because it has an indirect effect on decreasing the density of bone minerals over time.
Abuse of alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption can deplete vital minerals needed by the body. If alcohol intake is increased over recommended quantities, the calcium reserves from the bone will be released to the blood.
Having a basic understanding of the following factors can help you monitor or prohibit the onset, development or progression of osteoporosis.