Osteoporosis is a common degenerative condition that is a cause of concern for most people as they age. Osteoporosis is a deteriorative condition that causes loss of bone mass and tissue, leading to a weakening of the bones. The increased fragility of the bones puts you at greater risk of suffering bone injuries like fractures, particularly in the hip, wrist and spine.
Osteoporosis is widely thought of as a condition restricted to elderly women, but this isnВ’t necessarily the case, and the origins of the condition may be traced back a lot earlier. Resorption is the process by which bone tissue is taken away from the bones, but this effect is offset by bone formation. Bone formation typically peaks by the age of thirty, after which the rate of resorption increases beyond that of formation. In most healthy individuals, this is of little consequence, but in some individuals the process of resorption occurs a lot more quickly or the process of formation may be a lot slower than normal. For this reason, itВ’s important to pay more attention to bone health and development earlier in life so that your bones remain strong as you age. Calcium intake is important to this end.
The effects of osteoporosis on your quality of life can be quite severe, depending on the severity of the condition off course. Osteoporosis can cause the bones to become so brittle and weak that they may they may suffer damage even from mild falls or stresses like severe coughing or bending over. A low intake of calcium and essential minerals will accelerate the process of bone loss, leaving you more vulnerable to the effects of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is largely age related, with at least a third of all women past fifty and an eight of all men in the same age group being likely to suffer from some type of osteoporosis related fracture. ItВ’s never too early to take steps to prevent osteoporosis. Even if you are past the age of thirty or fifty, thereВ’s still a lot that you can do to strengthen the bones and minimize the risks of osteoporosis.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
When dealing with osteoporosis itВ’s important that you keep in mind that steps should be taken to prevent the condition or to minimize the effects of osteoporosis prior to the development of symptoms. In almost all individuals, symptoms of osteoporosis only appear when the condition is in an advanced stage, and there can be little done to reverse the damage. For this reason, preventive measures and precautions are extremely important. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of osteoporosis:
- You may literally seem to be shrinking as you age, as there is a gradual loss of height over time.
- A stooped or hunched posture.
- Fractures of the hips, wrist or spine resulting from seemingly minor falls.
- Frequent back pain, which may be extremely severe because of fractured vertebra.
DonВ’t wait until you experience symptoms of osteoporosis to seek diagnosis and treatment. It would be advisable to consult your doctor and go in for a bone density test if any of these conditions are applicable to you: If you are past the age of sixty or sixty five, whether or not there are any risk factors or symptoms present.
- If you have gone through menopause and are exposed to even one risk factor.
- If you have gone through menopause and have only recently gone off hormone therapy.
- If you have experienced early menopause.
- If you are a man pat the age of fifty and exposed to at least one risk factor.
- If you are on any medications that have some association with osteoporosis like anti-seizure drugs or prednisone.
Causes of Osteoporosis
There is no single definite cause for osteoporosis and it could be caused by a combination of factors. As mentioned above, the increase in resorption and simultaneous decline in bone formation is the main factor. On an average however, this rate of bone loss is not significant enough to pose health problems, but this process is accelerated in women post-menopause. This is because there is a sharp decline in estrogen levels after menopause. Estrogen has an important role to play in your skeletal health as it encourages the action of bone forming cells, which subsequently declines after menopause.
The main cause of osteoporosis is therefore hormonal changes that occur with age, as in men too, the risk increases with lowered testosterone levels, but this is usually at a later age. Some of the other possible causes or contributing factors include:
- Confinement to the bed
- Certain medical conditions like chronic kidney disease, chronic rheumatoid arthritis, and hyperparathyroidism.
- Eating disorders are also a possible cause of osteoporosis, as
it gives rise to various nutritional deficiencies.
- A vitamin D deficiency is also likely to contribute to the development of osteoporosis.
- Certain medications like anti-seizure drugs, and the use of corticosteroid medications on a daily basis for over three months may also cause osteoporosis. Caucasian women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, particularly if there is a family history of the condition. Some of the other possible risks include:
- Amenorrhea or the abnormal absence of menstrual periods for a considerable time
- Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking
- Having a low body weight
- Calcium deficient diet
- Treatment of prostate or breast cancer with hormonal therapy
Remedies for Osteoporosis
Natural remedies for osteoporosis do have a considerable role to play in the treatment of osteoporosis, but there are no known natural cures for osteoporosis. Conventional treatment for those at risk of osteoporosis or those who already suffer from the condition is directed towards restricting and preventing further bone loss, while boosting bone mass. While an increased calcium intake by itself will not help to prevent or cure the condition, adequate calcium intake is stressed on in any treatment plan. Physiotherapy and exercise programs may also be recommended. Home remedies for osteoporosis therefore typically involve lifestyle changes and dietary modifications directed towards these very same goals. While the natural treatment for osteoporosis may help considerably this is not a substitute for medical attention.
Physical fitness and regular exercise is absolutely essential to strengthen and improve the health of your bones. Some of the types of exercise you could take up include:
- Weight bearing exercises, activities like walking or jogging, or even playing tennis.
- Resistance exercises, with free weights or stretch bands.
- Balance exercises like Pilates and yoga.
- Workouts on stationary bicycles or rowing machines.
- Herbal remedies are primarily in the domain of alternative medicine, but they may have a lot to offer in the treatment of osteoporosis. Some herbs demonstrate estrogen like effects that could provide protection from bone loss, but there is a lot more research needed. It is important that you exercise caution and avoid consuming any herbal remedies or supplements without consulting your doctor first as many of them pose risks very similar to those from supplemental estrogen.
- Black cohosh may provide an alternative to supplemental estrogen, as it does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer, but may have the same beneficial effects because of its phytoestrogen content.
- Red clover is another herb that may help restrict bone loss because of isoflavones present in it, but more research is needed into its effects.
Diet for Osteoporosis
Your diet is a particularly important facet of treatment and you need to ensure that it provides you with an adequate intake of calcium, as well as vitamin D, protein, and other essential nutrients. While you will be prescribed with nutritional supplements, your dietary intake is just as important. Some rich sources of calcium would include foods like:
- Dairy products such as low fat milk, yogurt, cheese and ice cream.
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and collard greens, which are also rich sources of potassium and vitamin K, both of which are important to bone health.
- Fish like salmon and sardine (tinned with crushed bones) are also a rich source of calcium and other essential nutrients.
While it is advisable that you include these foods in your diet, it is absolutely essential that you follow a healthy well balanced diet, while steering clear of unhealthy foods like junk foods, fried and oily foods, and most processed and refined foods. This will also help to ensure that you stay at a healthy weight.
Suggestion for Osteoporosis
Lifestyle modifications are essential if you wish to recover from and cope with the effects of osteoporosis:
- Quitting smoking is not optional!
- Make it a point to limit your alcohol intake, as excessive alcohol consumption is damaging to your bones, and also increases your risk of injury from falls.
- Take steps to reduce your risk of falls and injuries that could result in debilitating fractures:
- Avoid the use of sedative medications
- Make sure that you go for regular checkups for your vision, as impaired vision puts you at considerable risk of falls
- Avoid going out for walks when the weather acts up, such as on an icy or rainy day
- Fit your bathroom with bars or railings to minimize the risk of slipping and falling
- Always wear well fitted supportive footwear.