You may not think that you have osteoporosis if you are younger than the people you know who have the disease, especially if they are seniors. According to science, however, this may not be the case. This disease is not exclusive to elderly women – which it is often associated with – but can impact both sexes at any age. Indeed, it is true that this disease is more frequently seen in women who are older than 50. Women are affected more than men because their bone mass is generally lower than that of men's. Osteoporosis is also one of the major leading causes of death, not the disease itself per se but the secondary complications of the disease.
The name of this disease comes from its appearance. Os- means bone, and -porosis means porous, so osteoporosis literally means porous bones. Pores form between bone cells, which weakens them and causes the bone structure to thin; this leads to the bone becoming brittle. People who have the disease may easily experience fractures, not only when they fall down, but also even when they sneeze or cough. We do not only see broken bones with this disease, but also it causes severe chronic pain, hunching and it can reduce your height as well, not to mention a significant decrease in quality of life. This is caused by the structure of bone cells weakening, leading your body to compress them, which, in turn, causes a reduction in height. For those who suffer from osteoporosis, the main part of the body that is prone to fracture is the spine and hips.
Understandably, these fractures may threaten your life. Major contributing risk factors for developing osteoporosis are gender, family history, age, race, and people with a small frame. Moreover, there are other environmental factors that also contribute to osteoporosis, including excessive alcohol use, smoking, malnutrition and lack of exercise. Hormone levels may also effect the progression of disease, which is why it is not surprising that perimenopausal women are more effected since estrogen is needed to keep bones strong. As estrogen levels drop during the perimenopausal period, it is easy to understand why women are more prone to osteoporosis than men. Since many women start experiencing perimenopausal symptoms in their 40s, it means that they start experiencing decreased estrogen. It is often advised for them to get their bone density checked when these symptoms begin. Moreover, there are other hormonal factors that contribute to osteoporosis such as hyperthyroidism or hyperparathyroidism and overactive adrenals. Therefore, if you experience thyroid problems, it is important to ensure you are monitoring your bone density.
Malnutrition affects osteoporosis because this often means there is a deficiency of calcium, vitamin D, iron and other minerals that are used in bone formation. A lack of calcium can be due to lactose intolerance or simply because someone may not like diary products; thus, they do not end up getting their recommended daily dose of calcium. Related to diet, it is especially important for vegetarians and vegans in particular ensure that they are supplementing their diets with the vitamins and minerals they may not naturally ingest either by taking supplements or eating non-meat and non-dairy foods such as leafy greens, legumes and fruit. Osteoporosis may be treated with prescribed medications and the right choice of treatment will reverse your bone loss. Healthy lifestyle habits and adjustments can also help. Of course, you should talk to your doctor's about which form of treatment is best for you. Although it is not possible to change any inherited genetic risk factors, adopting healthy lifestyle habits can significantly help you cope with this disease.
Since osteoporosis is a silent disease, you should be proactive in taking measures to prevent it. Aside from fortifying your diet with foods rich in calcium, iron, vitamin D and other minerals, decreasing your intake of alcohol can also make a significant difference. Even as much as two to three ounces of alcohol – a single glass of wine often has five to seven ounces – can exacerbate osteoporosis or lead to increased risks of bone fractures. Additionally, smoking is particularly bad for those who suffer from osteoporosis because it reduces your body's ability to treat itself when there is inflammation. Physical exercise will definitely help to prevent the formation of this disease since it continuously promotes bone re-mineralization and formation. Of course, you are free to choose how to live your life, but do not forget to take the steps that will give you a longer, happier and a healthier one.