By Medifit Biologicals.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture (broken bones), particularly of the hip, spine, wrist and shoulder. Osteoporosis is often known as “the silent thief” because bone loss occurs without symptoms. Osteoporosis is sometimes confused with osteoarthritis, because the names are similar. Osteoporosis is a bone disease; osteoarthritis is a disease of the joints and surrounding tissue.
Fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and more likely to break. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is common in older women. As many as half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
WHAT CAUSES OSTEOPOROSIS?
Many risk factors can lead to bone loss and osteoporosis. Some of these things you cannot change and others you can.
RISK FACTORS YOU CANNOT CHANGE INCLUDE:
- Gender. Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
- Age. The older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
- Body size. Small, thin women are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity. White and Asian women are at highest risk. Black and Hispanic women have a lower risk.
- Family history. Osteoporosis tends to run in families. If a family member has osteoporosis or breaks a bone, there is a greater chance that you will too.
- Other risk factors are:
- Sex hormones. Low estrogen levels due to missing menstrual periods or to menopause can cause osteoporosis in women. Low testosterone levels can bring on osteoporosis in men.
- Anorexia nervosa. This eating disorder can lead to osteoporosis.
- Calcium and vitamin D intake. A diet low in calcium and vitamin D makes you more prone to bone loss.
- Medication use. Some medicines increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Activity level. Lack of exercise or long-term bed rest can cause weak bones.
- Smoking. Cigarettes are bad for bones, and the heart, and lungs, too.
- Drinking alcohol. Too much alcohol can cause bone loss and broken bones.
Osteoporosis is often diagnosed after weakened bones have led to a fracture.
If you’re at risk of developing osteoporosis, your GP may refer you for a bone mineral density scan, known as a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA, or DXA) scan.
Normal X-rays are a useful way of identifying fractures, but they aren’t a reliable method of measuring bone density.
DEXA (DXA) scan
A DEXA scan can be used to help diagnose osteoporosis. It’s a quick, safe and painless procedure that usually takes about five minutes, depending on the part of the body being scanned.
The scan measures your bone mineral density and compares it to the bone mineral density of a healthy young adult and someone who’s the same age and sex as you.
The difference between the density of your bones and that of a healthy young adult is calculated as a standard deviation (SD) and is called a T score.
Standard deviation is a measure of variability based on an average or expected value. A T score of:
- above -1 SD is normal
- between -1 and -2.5 SD is defined as decreased bone mineral density compared with peak bone mass
- below -2.5 is defined as osteoporosis
Although a bone density scan can help diagnose osteoporosis, your bone mineral density result isn’t the only factor that determines your risk of fracturing a bone.
Your age, sex and any previous injuries will need to be taken into consideration before deciding whether you need treatment for osteoporosis.
Your doctor can help you take positive steps to improve your bone health. If you need treatment, they can also suggest the safest and most effective treatment plan for you.
Osteoporosis is a potentially crippling disease characterized by low bone mass (density) and deterioration of bone tissue. The condition leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture – most often at the spine, wrist or hip.
Osteoporosis does not develop overnight. You can lose bone mass steadily for many years without experiencing any symptoms or signs of the disease until a bone fractures. For this reason, osteoporosis is often called “the silent thief” – literally stealing our bone mass without giving us any indication whatsoever. If osteoporosis is first diagnosed at the time a fracture occurs, it is already fairly advanced.
Early detection of bone loss, therefore, is critical in preventing osteoporotic fractures. This section is designed to help you assess your risk of osteoporosis so that you may take preventive action.
OSTEOPOROSIS IS SERIOUS
Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially when you’re older. Broken bones due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine and wrist, but other bones can break too. Broken bones can cause severe pain that may not go away. Osteoporosis also causes some people to lose height. When osteoporosis causes the bones of the spine, called vertebrae, to break or collapse, it affects your posture and causes you to become stooped or hunched.
Osteoporosis may even keep you from getting around easily and doing the things you enjoy, which may bring feelings of isolation or depression. It can also lead to other health problems. Twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from problems related to the broken bone itself or surgery to repair it. Many of those who survive need long-term nursing home care.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes:
- A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- An exercise plan
- A healthy lifestyle
- Medications, if needed.
An important objective for health services across England is to try to prevent falls and fractures. This is of particular concern for people who’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis and those with risk factors for osteoporosis.
The key messages for older people and their family and carers are:
- falls are a risk as you get older, but aren’t inevitable – there are measures you can take to prevent falls or reduce the harm that might be caused by falling
- staying active and healthy – for example, through exercise and diet – is likely to keep you independent and reduce your risk of falling
- if you’re unsteady on your feet or fall, speak to your GP so possible causes of falls, such as poor eyesight, certain medications, and poor muscle strength and balance, can be identified and treated
By Medifit Biologicals.