Osteoporosis

A quick primer

Osteoporosis is a serious condition that causes bones to become brittle and susceptible to fractures.

It occurs when the bone deteriorates at a rate faster than what the body can replace.

Before the age of 30, especially during childhood and teenage years, the body makes new bone faster than it removes old bone, increasing the density of the bone and allowing us to grow stronger.

After age 30, the rate at which new bone is made declines, leading to bones that have less density.

The older you get, the faster this occurs, and hormones play a major role in accelerating the deterioration.

Osteoporosis affects almost one half of all women and one third of men, and is especially prevalent in post menopausal women over the age of 45.

Menopause and hormones are key factors in the risk for developing osteoporosis.

With osteoporosis, bone mass is affected by a loss of minerals such as calcium, making them more fragile and susceptible to damage.

Sufferers of osteoporosis can sustain major injury as a result of an otherwise minor fall because their bones are so brittle.

These fractures are referred to as “fragility fractures”, caused by lack of thickness or density of the bones.

Areas of the body most commonly affected include the spine, ribs, hips, arms and wrists. Often called the ‘silent disease’, osteoporosis often times occurs without warning, with the first sign of trouble only when a bone is fractured.

As women’s estrogen levels decrease, so does bone density, at an alarming rate of 2-4 % per year.

This is especially so after a women has gone through menopause. Estrogen plays a vital role in helping the cells that create bone cells, so when estrogen is reduced, bone production slows dramatically.

Osteoporosis is debilitating and can cause long-term suffering and disability. There are many predisposing risk factors for osteoporosis including your hormone levels, level of physical activity, diet, and genetic makeup.

It is important to preserve your bone density to prevent loss, especially after the age of 30. Some risk factors you do have control over include smoking, alcohol consumption, being underweight and not taking enough calcium.

Calcium plays a major role in osteoporosis prevention, as 99% of the calcium in our bodies can be found in either our bones or our teeth.

Most people don’t consume the recommended daily amount of calcium even though it is essential for building healthy teeth and strong bones.

Building tough, solid bones early in life plays a major role in whether you suffer from osteoporosis later.

Calcium is also essential for other important body functions; the nervous system, blood clotting and proper muscle function. Calcium is lost each day as we shed our skin, nails and hair.

It is also excreted in our waste. The human body does not have the ability to manufacture calcium, so it must be ingested.

If calcium is lacking in the diet, the body takes what it needs from the bones, increasing the risk of development of osteoporosis later in life.