Osteoporosis

The bones in the skeletal system are very important in providing structural integrity for the rest of the human body. The bones not only serve as protection for vital organs like the brain, heart, and lungs, but they are also deposits of nutrients. Bone marrow, the region inside the bones, plays a vital role in producing blood cells. Even if a person has reached adolescence or adulthood, bones still continue to grow and regenerate when repairs are needed.

Bones are essentially made of tough material, but certain health conditions or physical activities by the person can alter the integrity and toughness of bones. Osteoporosis is a disease represented by low bone mass, bone tissue damaged structurally, bone fragility and likely chances of fractures, more so to hip, spine, and wrist, even though we can not rule out chances of any other bone being affected. There are many persons who are highly susceptible to bone fractures, or cracks or breakage of the bones. This may be due to poor nutrition or the engagement in heavy physical activity like sports.

Osteoporosis is seen in 80% of the cases in women as compared to men. Osteoporosis fractures drastically lower the quality of patient’s life and the likelihood of the first fracture leading to another is even more. Osteoporosis fractures often require hospitalization. It may also lead to disability and deformity, some times permanent. Therefore it is all the more important to prevent it than rue it later.

SYMPTOMS

What is osteoporosis and how does a person become afflicted with it? Osteoporosis occurs when calcium is in very low levels in the blood. Because bones need calcium for maintenance, there is little of the mineral left for it to absorb. For women above the age of 45, especially those who are nearing their menopausal stage, low levels of the hormone estrogen can trigger osteoporosis. There are also medical resources that explain how cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse can lead to the weakening of the bones and the ability of the body to recuperate after an injury. People with this condition are more prone to hip or back injury.

Osteoporosis is called a silent disease because symptoms are totally absent and the bone loss continues unabated till the point of no return. The problem crops up suddenly without notice, a fracture or a vertebra collapses. Collapsed vertebra may be felt initially by severe back pain, height loss or spinal deformities like kyphosis. Some persons who are unable to address osteoporosis at an early stage may end up with curved spines, and have difficulty standing up or walking upright.

RISK FACTORS

Women come under the high risk category, since they lose 20% of bone mass following menopause making them more susceptible to osteoporosis than males. Estrogen deficiency due to menopause, those early or surgically induced and abnormal absence of menstrual periods also cause osteoporosis. Hereditary causes, small body frame, low calcium intake in the life time and vitamin D deficiency are also some of the causes for osteoporosis. Men who consume excessive alcohol, smoke much and have low levels of testosterone also contract osteoporosis. As people age, bone regeneration possibly slows down. Some adults are thus more prone to osteoporosis, or brittleness of bones.

DETECTION

It can be detected by bone mineral density at various points of body. Bone mineral density finds out the rate of bone loss, the chance of occurrence of a fracture and the likelihood of osteoporosis before the actual occurrence of a fracture.

PREVENTION

How can a person prevent becoming a victim to osteoporosis? What can be done to alleviate the symptoms of the condition? It is always advisable for people, no matter what age they are, to adapt healthy habits beginning with diet, exercise, and enough sleep and rest. For those who are aging, constant movement and activity are needed. This keeps the heart pumping, and contributes to cardiovascular health.

Fewer people become susceptible to diseases if they adapt healthy lifestyles, and stick to their choices. Osteoporosis can be prevented. But for those who already are feeling the symptoms of the condition, they can supplement calcium in their diets. This can be through the help of capsules, or high calcium food like milk and dairy products. Women are also prescribed with hormone replacement therapy to compensate for the low levels of estrogen in their bodies.

Osteoporosis can be best defended by building up strong bones during the formative years and adolescence. A balanced and rich diet of calcium and vitamin D, exercises involving weights, lifestyle devoid of smoking and alcohol, regular bone testing and medications at the proper time go a long way in optimizing bone health and can prevent osteoporosis to happen. Jogging, walking, stair climbing and dancing are some of the exercise recommended regularly to keep up the body weight and its consequences. Lifting of weights is recommended to improve muscle mass and bone strength. Active life style interspersed with physical activities which strengthens the muscles acts as a barrier to osteoporosis formation.

Although there is no cure for osteoporosis some of the medications like Alendronate, Ibandronate, Zoledronic acid, Risedronate, Calcitonin, estrogen/hormone therapy, bone forming may mitigate it to an extent. More women suffer hip fractures than men, but the mortality rate is high in males following a hip fracture. More than a quarter of hip fracture patients die the following year of their fracture. The rate of hip fracture in women is equal to the combined rate of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers put together which indicates the high incidence of Osteoporosis in women. Only one-sixth’s of patients suffering from hip fracture recover fully and walks unaided.
With the statistics revealing a grim picture, efforts should be made wholeheartedly to prevent Osteoporosis at any cost to avoid hardship in the later stages of life.
 

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