According to World Health Organization (WHO), osteoporosis is a bone disease in which the bone mineral density (BMD) is 2.5 standard deviation or below. The disease is the thinning of your bones, literally breaking down. Do not confuse osteoporosis with osteoarthritis, which is the breakdown of cartilage, which covers the end of bones and which affects joints. According to WHO statistics, osteoporosis a major health threat worldwide, with majority of those over 50 years suffering from the disease. In the USA alone, about 10 million adults have already been diagnosed with the disease, with another 34 million people at risk of having low BMD.
The silent disease, as osteoporosis is commonly known, has been associated with the aged. It has however been established that it can in fact affect anyone at any age. Although the disease can affect any bone within your body, it commonly affects the hip, spine and wrist bones. You may not know that you have the disease because it develops silently, until a bone breaks, causing severe pain.
Types of Osteoporosis
There two main classes of osteoporosis, each with its own cause(s):
- Primary osteoporosis – Primary osteoporosis is further divided into two types:
- Type 1 – Type 1 primary osteoporosis mainly affects women in the post-menopause period. Its occurrence is directly related to loss of estrogen hormone. It is common in post-menopausal women between 50 and 70 years. The bone affected in most cases is the spongy bone inside the vertebrae (spine).
- Type 2 – Type 2 primary osteoporosis is age related. It naturally occurs due to aging. It affects both men and women over the age of 70 years. Unlike Type 1, Type 2 affects both the spongy bone in the spine as well as the cortical bone.
- Secondary osteoporosis – Secondary osteoporosis can be said to be universal; it can affect anyone, regardless of age. It can be caused by several factors including:
- Disease – Any disease that affects the endocrine system (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism), gastrointestinal tract (Crohn’s disease) and liver disease cause thinning of the bones.
- Poor lifestyle – Excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking have serious effect on BMD, reducing it.
- Poor diet – Because osteoporosis is associated with low bone mineral density (BMD), consuming a diet that does not contain adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins (especially calcium and vitamin D) directly leads to lowering of the same, leading to osteoporosis.
- Premature menopause – Premature menopause is a major cause of both secondary osteoporosis in young women.
- Medications – Certain medications such as those used to treat epilepsy (phenytoin), transplant medications (heparin, cyclosporine) and corticosteroids cause thinning of bones.
Risk Factors That May Lead to Osteoporosis
Below are some of the risk factors that can encourage the development of osteoporosis. They are also the factors that you need to watch out for and take remedy measures to avoid the development of the same:
- Your age – Note that you attain a maximum bone mineral density (BMD) when you are around 30 years after which the density starts to drop as you age. This is the time to start looking at your diet and lifestyle. You need to increase intake of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids to ensure that your bones still receive the same. You need to consider reducing alcohol intake if you can stop.
- Your gender – Being a woman put you at most risk of developing osteoporosis (secondary or Type 1 primary). Perhaps you need to ensure that you live a healthy lifestyle with a healthy diet routine rich in vitamins and minerals. If need be, consider using supplements (in consultation with your doctor).
- Your race – From research undertaken, Caucasian, Asian and African American women have been found to be at risk of developing osteoporosis. Black African women are the low at risk (perhaps due traditional foods rich in vital nutrients).
- Bone structure – Having thin bones puts you at risk of developing osteoporosis compared to those women (and men) with large bones. This is because you literally have less bone to lose.
- Genetics – You are at risk of developing osteoporosis if one or both of your parents have been diagnosed with the condition.
- Medications – Certain medications (as seen above) cause thinning of bones. It is very important that you ascertain the side effects of any medication before taking. Consider asking for a safer but effective alternative medication if available.
- Lack of activity – Lack of activity can easily lead to thinning of your bones. Consider performing exercises on a daily basis, however light such may be.
You can play a very important role in preventing osteoporosis and the good thing is that prevention does not cause you anything. As stated above, osteoporosis is a silent disease and you only come to realize that you have the disease in case of a fracture, even with minimal force. It therefore becomes important to ascertain your BMD measurement at least once in a year. Osteoporosis diagnosis is through several ways. Your BMD is measured using what is medically known as dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Radiography can also be undertaken to determine if your BMD is reducing. Other diagnostic ways include computer tomography and use of chemical biomarkers. Various medications are available for both preventing and treating osteoporosis. Raloxifene, estrogen replacement therapy and calcitonin are just some of the drugs your doctor can prescribe for you. In addition, you may be encouraged to use calcium salts, sodium fluoride, vitamins D, K and exercises as one way of treatment.