Osteoporosis – What is it and what can we do about it?
The human body is a beautiful and complex system. When we think of our bones, we think of our skeleton and how it provides the “back bone” of support to all the joints and muscles. However, it is important to remember that our bones are living tissue. It is not something that stops growing, readjusting, or transforming as we grow older. On the contrary, our bodies are constantly replenishing the bone mass we lose as we age.
Our bones are not dense objects, they are very porous. The internal structure of a bone looks like a honeycomb. Structural deterioration of the bone happens when these internal spaces get bigger and even more porous. We may consider this a result of aging, but it can develop into a crippling disease. Osteopenia is the name given to this deteriorative condition.
Why does this happen?
Osteoporosis occurs when our bodies are not able to replenish the bones mass as fast as we lose it. It seems that as we age this capacity slows down and our bones become brittle, fragile and their support structure cannot sustain impact. Any minor fall can become hazardous to our health – even a sneeze. In fact, the word osteoporosis means “porous bone”. This condition develops slowly, and it is silent. You may only find out that you have it when a bump or impact that would not have bothered you years ago, revels the vulnerability of the bones.
Both men and women can develop this disease. Nevertheless, it seems that women are more at risk. We can guess why this may be. However, that would be pure speculation. What we do know is that signs of osteoporosis may happen to anyone, however Asian and Caucasian women seem to be at more risk.
What are the unavoidable risk factors?
Your gender. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men.
Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Race. You are at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you are of Caucasian or Asian descent.
Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother developed this disease.
Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they might have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
Dietary factors risk factors:
Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays an important role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
Eating disorders. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone mass in both men and women.
Gastrointestinal surgery. Surgery to reduce the size of your stomach or to remove part of the intestine limits the amount of surface area available to absorb nutrients, including calcium. These surgeries include those to help you lose weight and for other gastrointestinal disorders.
What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?
- Back ache or pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebrae
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped or diminished posture
- A bone that breaks much more easily than anticipated
What can we do about it?
Our bodies are complex mechanisms that were designed to be active. Weight training seems to “trick” the body into creating more bone density and replenishing it faster. Allowing it to be denser and maintain its youthful structure.
Supplementing with calcium during life may be important. Especially if you have certain unavoidable risk factors, a high calcium diet is recommended. Always remember to consult with your doctor or health care provider for deficiencies.
Check your bones
Remember to consult with your doctor or health care provider for more information regarding you and osteoporosis. Do not let it be too late! It can be avoided, especially if we become aware of the risks and what we can do about it.