The Basics of Osteoporosis

The Basics of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a thinning of the bones and a loss of bone density. Most common in the elderly and women over the age of 50, osteoporosis occurs in people whose bodies lose the ability to properly replenish the skeletal system, either through malnutrition or various health complications. When new bone tissues aren't produced at the correct rate, then existing bone tissues become thin and brittle. People who have osteoporosis are extremely vulnerable to broken bones, even from taking wrong steps or suffering from minor falls. Back pain, hip pain and pelvic pain can be symptoms of hairline fractures. The problem is the body is no longer able to support its own weight. Women who see their doctors regularly are often warned of the risks and dangers of osteoporosis, but many women remain undiagnosed until bone or joint problems occur.

Osteoporosis was once believed to be as normal as age-related hair loss. However, there is nothing normal or mild about osteoporosis. As people get older, suffering a broken bone can cause a chain reaction of other serious health issues to occur, especially when the bones and joints affected are weight-bearing. Now that the medical community knows more about osteoporosis, numerous treatments have been cultivated to help people prevent and manage the condition. Regular exercise, healthy dieting, the use of nutrition supplements and even medications can help people who are at risk of osteoporosis to avoid the worst problems associated with this condition.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is primarily caused by a insufficient amounts of calcium and phosphate, which are both needed for the body to build strong, healthy bones. These minerals are in great abundance in the body when people are younger, which is why children, teens and young adults generally have no issues with diminished bone density. However, as people get older, their bodies start absorbing more of these minerals before they can be used for building healthy bones. This slows the production of new bone tissues, which can lead to osteoporosis. Deficiencies in calcium and phosphate don't happen over a period of days, weeks or months. Rather, people who develop osteoporosis have usually been deficient on their required vitamins and minerals for years.

Various risk factors can also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. The biggest risk factor is being female, and another big risk factor is age. Older and middle-aged women make up the majority of cases of people who are diagnosed with osteoporosis. Race is also an issue, with people of white or Asian descent statistically more likely to develop the condition. Genetics may also be to blame, as research shows that people with histories of osteoporosis in their families are more likely to develop the conditions themselves. Various health problems can also up the risk of osteoporosis; rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems and kidney disease are examples of such health issues. Early menopause increases the risk of osteoporosis, and people who smoke, drink lots of alcohol and don't lead active lives are also putting themselves at more risk than people who live healthy lifestyles.

Signs and Symptoms of Osteoporosis

People who are at risk of osteoporosis, especially older and middle-aged women, should talk to their doctors about when to be tested for the signs of this condition. Unfortunately, many women with osteoporosis don't show any symptoms until the condition has reached a more advanced stage. By then, bone density has diminished significantly, and the presence of osteoporosis may go unnoticed until bone fractures have occurred. The most telltale signs of osteoporosis are bone pain, joint pain and aches in weight-bearing areas of the body such as the back and hips. Other symptoms of osteoporosis include a loss of height, neck pain and back pain. Osteoporosis can also impact a person's posture, causing people to stand in stooped positions.

Getting tested for the signs of osteoporosis is critical, especially for women in the most at-risk age demographic. Men can also be diagnosed with osteoporosis, but this condition is very rare among male patients. Most women can prevent osteoporosis symptoms from ever occurring by seeing their doctors and making healthy lifestyle choices. Also worth noting is when osteoporosis is detected early, the condition can often be stopped in its tracks or even reversed. There aren't many serious, potentially chronic health problems that can be controlled to the extent of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Treatment

Osteoporosis is an incurable condition, but that doesn't mean that no treatments are available. People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis can take numerous steps to get relief from pain and restore lost bone density. Smarter exercise, healthier dieting and the use of medications can help people with osteoporosis get on the path to recovery. Medications are also available that can help prevent osteoporosis in people who have elevated risks. One such type of medications, bisphosphonates, helps prevent osteoporosis in women who haven't yet undergone menopause. For people who have already been diagnosed with the condition, a drug known as calcitonin can help slow the rate of bone loss, reducing the risk of injury and making treatments more effective. Women with osteoporosis may also try hormone therapy to manage the condition after menopause.

Although osteoporosis can lead to bone breaks and joint pain, exercise can be a tremendous help in helping patients restore lost bone density. Exercises that put weight on the bones force the body to build up the bones over time. Light jogging and walking are examples of healthy exercises for people who suffer from osteoporosis. The key is for people who exercise to also be following their other treatment plans while also consuming diets rich in calcium, phosphates and Vitamins C and D. Doing this will strengthen the bones of your body, prevent further bone loss and also reduce the risk of injury from osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Prevention

The good news about osteoporosis is that while it may be common, it's also very preventable. The reason why osteoporosis is so problematic in the United States is that most Americans don't get enough exercise or regularly eat healthy foods. Numerous studies have shown that people who live healthy lifestyles are far less likely to develop osteoporosis than people who are inactive or struggle with obesity.

Making sure to get enough calcium in your diet is perhaps the most important step toward preventing the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium is more vital than any other nutrient for the building of healthy bones. Until the age of 50, men and women should consume at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day, and that number rises to at least 1,200 mg per day for women over the age of 50 and men over the age of 70. Getting enough Vitamin D is also important; without Vitamin D, your body can't make full use of eating the right amount of calcium each day. Both calcium and Vitamin D are available as dietary supplements than can be taken along with meals. Exercise is the final component of preventing osteoporosis. Doing weight-bearing exercises at least a few times a week will help fortify your bones and prevent the loss of bone density that's common with osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of osteoporosis both now and as you grow older.