Osteoporosis is a condition which causes the bones to become brittle and weak resulting in them breaking easily. Commonly associated with breaks as a result of minor falls, the truth is that it takes nothing as intense as a fall for your bones to break if you suffer from this condition. Even someone grabbing your wrist or you simply twisting suddenly can be enough for them to break. Age, amongst other considerations is a factor, which is why it’s more common in the elderly population, although by no means restricted to it.
Osteoporosis is the result of a natural thinning of your bone mass as you get older. Your bone density tends to reach its peak at about the age of 30, after which the natural process of remodelling bone structure then starts to take away more bone than what it replaces. Therefore, everybody’s bones will start getting progressively thinner once you hit your 30s but the process is speeded up in some people by a number of factors. They include:
- Estrogen deficiency in women once they’ve been through the menopause (a reason why women are more prone to suffer than men), although men who have a lower than average testosterone level are also at risk
- Thin body structures
- Sufferers or ex-sufferers of anorexia nervosa
- Lack of exercise
- Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency
- Smoking and drinking alcohol
- Use of certain prescription drugs
- Hereditary factors
Although it’s not possible to stop your bone density from diminishing as you get older, there are certain steps you can take to slow the process down in order to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
A healthy diet, rich in vitamin D and calcium, is recommended. This could include low-fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, cereals, orange juice and greens such as spinach, sprouts and broccoli are good for your bones too. You should also reduce your salt intake and keep off the carbonated drinks as there is some concern that drinks which contain phosphoric acid can actually remove calcium from your body, although this is quite a debatable issue.
Exercise is very important – biking, swimming and other similar weight-bearing exercises are preferable to, say, running as they place less stress upon your bones, thereby causing less erosion. It’s particularly important to take regular exercise but not to overdo it too much and to do the right kind of exercise as there have been several well-documented cases of the likes of marathon athletes who have gone on to suffer with osteoporosis later in life because of factors associated with the punishing nature of their training.
Your GP should be able to advise you on a suitable diet and exercise plan if you’re suffering, or are in danger of suffering from osteoporosis, and some calcium based supplements can help. Later in life, if you have brittle bones and suffer a fall, it can acutely hamper your mobility and in severe incidents, such as a hip fracture, there are other accompanying risks such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.
It is, however, a condition that you should be aware of as you get older as it’s estimated that over 1 in 3 women and 1 in 12 men over the age of 50 presently suffer with the condition to a lesser or greater extent.