When we think of bones, we usually think of hard lifeless structures. Yet our bones are made up of an intricate network of blood vessels and nerves. They need nourishment and are constantly being regenerated. Bones are the only substance in the human body that can completely regenerate and re-grow. Why is it then that we are affected by diseases such as Osteoporosis? In this article we at the Spinalogy Clinic, Pune understand Osteoporosis and how to prevent it.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a medical condition that weakens your bones and makes them brittle. When osteoporosis occurs it creates holes within your bones. The literal translation of the word osteoporosis is in fact, ‘porous bones’. In extreme cases bones may become so brittle that even a severe cough could cause a fracture. While osteoporosis can affect anyone, older women are more at risk of developing it. Apart from age and gender there are other risk factors as well, which we will look into at a later stage. But first to understand osteoporosis better we need to understand how bones usually regenerate.
What is Bone Remodeling?
Remodeling is a natural process through which bones regenerate. In remodeling old pieces of bone are replaced with new, fresh bone. As children, our bones are just growing so this happens at a much faster rate. By the age of 25 the bones reach their peak bone mass and stabilize for a couple of years. From then on remodeling usually occurs naturally around once every 10 years.
How Does Osteoporosis Occur?
When osteoporosis occurs bone tissue breaks down faster than it can be replaced. Therefore there is a deficiency in bone mass. This makes the bones thinner and more susceptible to fractures. While osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, it most commonly occurs in the spine, ribs, hips and wrist. It can also cause the loss of height and in some cases a hump in the upper back.
What Can Be done to Prevent Osteoporosis?
Once you lose bone mass, you can never get it back. So the key to managing osteoporosis is to build up your bone strength while you’re still young. And you’re never too young to start thinking about preventing osteoporosis. The most basic ways to build up bone strength are by exercising, eating well and improving your lifestyle.
Eating Well to Prevent Osteoporosis
Eating well involves consuming an adequate amount of Calcium. Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, seafood and nuts are all rich sources of calcium. There are also calcium supplements available. It is important to know that the body can only absorb a small amount of calcium at a time. Therefore, even if you have a diet rich in calcium, it needs to be consumed at intervals. To absorb this calcium, the body requires the presence of Vitamin D. Spending time in the sun encourages the production of Vitamin D.
Exercising to Prevent Osteoporosis
Exercising brings with it a number of benefits. You build muscle, strength, endurance and most importantly, you maintain bone mass and density. There are different kinds of exercises one can do. Weight-bearing exercises are those that require your feet and legs to support the weight of your body. Walking is an example of this. Then there are resistance exercises. These require you to work against the weight of another object. Weight machines in the gym for example, require you to do resistance exercises. Lastly, flexibility exercises like yoga help prevent osteoporosis.
When it comes to bone health, the least effective exercises are the ones that are minimal weight-bearing, such as swimming and cycling.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Osteoporosis
Having more than two alcoholic drinks on a daily basis increases the chances of developing osteoporosis. Similarly, smoking is known to restrict the functioning of estrogen in the body and can therefore lead to osteoporosis. A smoker’s body is also known to absorb less calcium from their diets.
Are You at Risk of Developing Osteoporosis?
One reason why osteoporosis occurs more in women is because of its correlation to estrogen levels. A decrease in estrogen levels in the body increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Therefore as women grow older, they are at more risk of developing osteoporosis. Similarly, women who have taken birth control pills during their reproductive years are less likely to develop the condition as these pills contain estrogen.
However, men can also develop osteoporosis due to lifestyle factors such as drinking and smoking. Similarly, a genetic history of osteoarthritis can make you more prone to developing it.
If you’ve suffered fractures in the past your bones may not be strong enough to tackle the condition. There are also some long-term medications (ex. Steroid) that may weaken your bones.
As you can see, while osteoporosis can affect anyone it can also be prevented from any age. Very rarely does osteoporosis show symptoms. It is called a ‘silent disease’. However, we at Spinalogy Clinic, Pune can help you assess your bone strength and guide you further in preventing osteoporosis.
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