Osteoporosis, which literally translates to “porous bones” from Latin, is a debilitating bone disease. Bones have two parts, the hard outer shell called cortical or compact bone, and the comparatively softer inner part called trabecular bone. Trabecular bone is naturally like a honeycomb and has small empty spaces. If you have osteoporosis then these gaps become larger, making the bones weak and brittle.
World Osteoporosis Day is observed every year on 20th October to spread awareness about this disease, which is usually associated with old age but is highly preventable if you take precautions against it when you’re young.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
While osteoporosis affects all genders, studies show that women are more at risk of developing it especially after they hit menopause. Usually, osteoporosis has no symptoms in the earliest stages. In fact, most people don’t even get diagnosed with the disease until they get a fracture and have to get an x-ray done, which reveals whether your bone density is okay or not.
Having a family history of osteoporosis increases your risks of getting the disease, so whether you have symptoms or not, you should get yourself screened. In case symptoms do show up, it’s likely to be receding gums, weakened grip strength and weak or brittle nails. If you have severe osteoporosis then getting a fracture at the slightest trauma (like a hard sneeze) is likely to be a key symptom. Persistent back or neck pain and losing height as you age are also likely symptoms of severe osteoporosis.
Risk factors of osteoporosis
The following are some of the common risk factors of osteoporosis:
Prevention of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a highly preventable disease, especially if you take adequate steps against it from an early age. This means the adoption of the following preventive measures during your childhood and all the way until you grow old - preventing osteoporosis is a lifelong target.
1. Get minerals: Your bone density and health depends on minerals like calcium, iron, phosphorus, as well as vitamin D and protein. Eat plenty of milk, cheese, paneer, yoghurt, chicken, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds to ensure you have sufficient amounts of these in your diet. You should also consult your doctor about calcium and vitamin D supplements if you are at risk of osteoporosis.
2. Work out: Your bone health is intricately linked to muscular health - hence the use of musculoskeletal health. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise, especially weight training, is known to improve musculoskeletal strength and prevent osteoporosis.
3. Avoid smoking and drinking: If there are any two lifestyle habits that increase the risk of osteoporosis, it’s smoking and excess alcohol consumption. Quit smoking and your bones will thank you for it. Women should not consume more than one drink per day and men should limit themselves to two drinks per day.
4. Maintain a healthy weight: Excessive weight gain and obesity can affect your bone health negatively and lead to early bone degradation. This can, in turn, lead to osteoporosis. Start exercising and maintain a healthy diet to get in shape if you are overweight or obese.
5. Get screened: If you have enough of the risk factors, especially a family history of osteoporosis and being female, you should get screened at an early age for osteoporosis. Ask your doctor if you can get a dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) done.
For more information, read our article on Osteoporosis.
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