Our bones play a crucial role in our body, they protect and support our internal organs and give the body shape. When bones do not have enough supply of calcium and other minerals to keep them strong, they could become thinner and weak resulting in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a kind of disease in the bones that occurs when the regeneration of new bones does not keep up and the body loses too many bones. This is a disease most likely experienced by older people aged 50 and above. The bones become weaker and break easily after a minor bump, a fall, or even just by sneezing.
Osteoporosis is also known as “porous bone.” Healthy bones look like honeycombs when viewed under a microscope. If a person has osteoporosis, the spaces and holes in those honeycombs are much larger and further away from each other. The density and mass of the bones are lost and exhibit abnormal structural tissues. When bones are less dense, they become weaker and more brittle.
Causes of Osteoporosis
Bones are made up of growing and living tissues. The spongy area inside a healthy bone is known as the trabecular bone. The outer hard shell is known as the cortical bone. When the bone has osteoporosis, the holes in the “spongy” area grow larger and the inside of the bones weakens.
Our bones store calcium and other minerals. During the process of remodeling, the body naturally breaks the bones and rebuilds them when it needs calcium. This process supplies the body with its needed calcium and minerals to keep the bones strong.
Bones constantly change and grow, bone cells dissolve and new bone cells grow back. We continuously replace most of our skeletons every 10 years. But, for people with osteoporosis, the loss of bones outpaces the growth of a new one. Bones become weaker and prone to breakage.
- Low estrogen in women: The common cause of osteoporosis in women is low estrogen. Deficiency of estrogen due to menopause, for women 50 and above, accelerates bone loss.
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation): For those who are younger, such as girls who are athletes or have eating disorders, the absence of menstruation compromises their bone density and risks them to developing osteoporosis.
- Surgically removed ovaries: Women who have their ovaries removed surgically can also develop low bone mass and density.
- Low testosterone in men: For men, a common cause of osteoporosis is low testosterone. They both need estrogen and testosterone for healthy bones. Men have to convert their testosterone into estrogen to preserve bones. Thus, testosterone deficiency can lead to osteoporosis.
- Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal imbalances can also cause osteoporosis for both men and women. Several body hormones regulate bone density such as growth hormones and parathyroid hormone. They help manage how our bones use stored calcium and when to break and rebuild the bones.
- Calcium deficiency: Lack of calcium is the most common cause of osteoporosis. Our bones are a reservoir of phosphorus and calcium. When our organs such as the heart, nerves, and muscles need calcium, they get it from the storehouse which is the bone. When the reservoir is being depleted and there’s insufficient amounts of these minerals, the bones weaken and end up thin and brittle.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is known as a silent disease. There are usually no symptoms during the early stage and you might not know that it’s osteoporosis until you break a bone. When the bone weakens, some of the common signs and symptoms are back pain, experiencing a loss of height due to stooping posture, shortness of breath, and bone fractures.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
Everyone could be at risk for osteoporosis.
- Age and gender are the most significant risk factors that increase the chance of getting the disease.
- Women post-menopausal or over the age of 50 have the highest risk of developing the disease.
- Asian and Caucasians are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
- Bodyweight and bone structure can also be risk factors, thin and petite people have a greater risk of developing the disease since they have smaller bones than those with larger frames.
- A family history of osteoporosis can also place you at a higher risk of developing the disease.
How to Treat Osteoporosis
- Proper nutrition. The proper way to get enough calcium is by eating the right food. A balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables and fruits and the right amount of calories for your age, weight, and height can help you prevent developing osteoporosis.
- Enough Vitamin D and Calcium. These nutrients are important to prevent osteoporosis and enhance bone mass. Foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, collards, turnip greens, broccoli, and bok choy are good sources of calcium.
- Exercise your bones. Our bones need to work out too. Exercises such as weight-bearing ones are the best workout for your bones. They force the body to go against gravity and prompt our body to rebuild new bones. These exercises include climbing the stairs, aerobics, jogging, walking, and yoga.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol and soda. Regular drinking of more than 2 drinks per day increases your risk for osteoporosis. Colas, on the other hand, lead to bone loss. The phosphorus in these drinks keeps our bones from absorbing calcium.
- Medications. For some people who already know they have osteoporosis, taking medications to slow down the damage caused by the disease is the right thing to do. Biphosphonates such as Fasomax, Actonel, and Boniva are the first choice of medications to take for osteoporosis treatment.
Diagnosis and Test
The bone density scan or commonly known as DEXA scan is a low dose x-ray. This imaging is used to measure calcium and other minerals present in the bones. It is a painless and quick procedure that shows the thickness and strength of the bones.
The scanning arm is passed over the area of the body needed to be scanned to measure the density of the bone at the center of the skeleton. It is also used to diagnose osteopenia, future fractures and to know if osteoporosis treatment is working.
Bone Mass Measurement measures the mineral density of the bone and it is being compared to an established standard score. This procedure is a predictor of whether the patient will have future fractures. It can also measure if the person is responding to osteoporosis treatment.