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Osteoporosis: Risk Factors, Symptoms and Prevention

Osteoporosis literally means 'porous bones'. It is a condition in which bone minerals are lost from bone making it brittle and making them vulnerable to break even with small injuries. Bone is a living tissue that constantly undergoes a process of breakdown and repair. In the case of osteoporosis, the repair lags behind the breakdown thus making it brittle. These fractures commonly occur in the hip, wrist and spine.

Who are at risk of osteoporosis?

There are a few factors which increase the risk of osteoporosis. These factors include:

  1. Age: With age, the risk of osteoporosis increases.
  2. Gender: Women are more prone to osteoporosis than men. 1 in 3 women is at risk of osteoporosis whereas 1 in 5 men is at risk of osteoporosis. Women who are past menopause and older than 45 are more susceptible to it.
  3. Hereditary: A family history of osteoporosis rises the risk of osteoporosis.
  4. Sedentary lifestyle: Lack of a healthy lifestyle puts the younger generation at risk of osteoporosis.
  5. Inadequate exposure to sunlight: This is a rising phenomenon even in tropical countries like India. Inadequate exposure leads to a deficiency of vitamin D which in turn hinders the development of bones.
  6. Smoking: Recent research studies have shown that smoking is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
  7. Consumption of alcohol: Alcohol affects all the parts of the body and chronic consumption of alcohol increases the risk of osteoporosis.
  8. Zealous use of skin sunscreen creams
  9. Irregular food habits: Consumption of food diet which is low in calcium can put one at risk of osteoporosis. Eating disorders that lead to being underweight also make a person prone to osteoporosis.
  10. Medical conditions: People with underlying medical conditions like cancer, lupus, arthritis are also susceptible to osteoporosis.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis in the early stages does not showcase any symptoms. But over a period, bone degenerates progressively which show the symptoms like:

  1. Back pain
  2. Loss of height over time
  3. A stooped posture
  4. A bone fracture with minor accidents

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

The bone density is measured by a machine that uses low levels of X-rays to determine the proportion of minerals in your bones. This is a Bone Mineral Density scan or BMD or DXA scan. We incorporate this scan in many of our health packages and we have special check-ups for detecting and assessing bone health.

How can one prevent osteoporosis?

A lifestyle management which includes regular exercise and healthy eating is vital to keep the bones healthy. A few ways to prevent osteoporosis are:

  1. Body weight: Being underweight increases the risk of osteoporosis, therefore, an ideal weight for the body should be maintained for good health in general.
  2. Healthy diet: Healthy food that ensures consumption of an adequate amount of nutrients should be consumed. Nutrients required to fight against osteoporosis are:
      • a. Proteins: These are the building blocks of every bone. One should consume enough amount of proteins especially, vegetarians and vegans who do not get enough supply of proteins.
      • b. Calcium: Our bones are composed of calcium and other minerals. The old calcium is removed and replaced by new calcium. If new calcium is not supplied adequately, the bone grows weaker. Therefore, it is important to consume the correct amount of calcium through low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon or sardines with bones, soy products such as tofu
        calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. Calcium supplements should be consumed only after consultation with an orthopaedic doctor.
      • c. Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for strengthening the bones as it helps in calcium absorption. Ensure your daily dose of vitamin D with a walk in the morning sun.Healthy diet: Healthy food that ensures consumption of an adequate amount of nutrients should be consumed. Nutrients required to fight against osteoporosis are:

3. Exercise: Exercising regularly helps in slowing the process of bone breakdown and thus retain bone strength.
4. Lifestyle changes: Along with a healthy diet and exercise, a lifestyle change such as avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol and coffee should be incorporated. People at higher risk of osteoporosis should check their calcium levels and bone density levels regularly.

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