Image B: Curving of the spine due to osteoporosis
Image A: Normal bone density verses that of osteoporosis
Cause and Symptoms
Osteoporosis literally means "porous bone". As seen in Image A, the bone density becomes significantly less dense as large holes or pores begin to form.
Overactivity of bone breakdown is the cause behind osteoporosis.
Unless you are screened regularly by your doctor, usually people don't know that they have osteoporosis till the point where a bone is breaks. Other symptoms include joint pain, curving of the spin (as in Image B). Osteoporosis prodominately appears in the neck, hips, hands and wrists.
Age: Simply getting older increases your risk.
Gender: Women are at greater risk than men. The risk for a woman especially increases after menopause.
Family history: A family history of osteoporosis increases your risk. This risk increases dramatically if a direct family member has a broke bone due to osteoporosis.
Ethnicity: Caucasians or those of South Asian descent are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
Smoking: Although experts are clear on why, several studies have shown a correlation between smoking and bone density.
Poor diet choices: A diet that is consistently low in calcium will in turn have less dense bones, putting these individuals more at risk for osteoporosis.
Physical inactivity: Lack of exercise also is associated with osteoporosis.
Alcoholism: Prolonged alcohol intake depletes the body of nutrients, like calcium.
Small frames: People who have small body frames, as well as people who are very thing, tend to have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis when they are older. This is because their bone mass is lower to begin with and with age it only becomes less dense.
Medical Conditions and surgical procedures: Particularly those that interfere with the absorption of nutrients Crohn's disease, Celiac's disease, Cushing's disease and stomach or intestinal surgeries.
How is it diagnosed?
In most cases, a person doesn't know they have osteoporosis until a bone breaks or major posture changes are noticed as in Image B. The most common way to test for osteoporosis is through a DEXA Scan.
DEXA stands for Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. The DEXA scan measures bone densities and compares them to a normal range for your age range. You are then given a 'T'score. This score describes the person's bone density compared to the average. T scores are set out in the following way:
0 or minus 1 - normal range bone density
Minus 1 to minus 2.5- lower bone density (Also called osteopenia)
Below minus 2.5 - positive for osteoporosis
The DEXA scan is fast, simple and accurate. It measures bone density in the most likely areas to be affected by osteoporosis - the spine, hip and wrist. It also follows changes in these bones over time.
How is it prevented?
The top three means of preventing or reducing your risk of a broke bone due to osteoporosis are:
1. Eat a diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D
This will promote healthy bone growth and development. Speak with your doctor to see if you need a supplement, otherwise click here to find out foods sources.
Weight baring exercises actually promote the development of bone.
3. Not drink in excess or smoke.
Both drinking in excess and smoking reduce bone density.
Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. This includes 1 in 3 women over 50, as well as 1 in 5 men.
Now & later
Video B: Bone Health
Video A: Osteoporosis explained
Healthy Now and Later
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