Osteoporosis, which means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Osteoporotic bone breaks are most likely to occur in the hip, spine, or wrist, but other bones can break too. In addition to causing permanent pain, osteoporosis causes some patients to lose height. When osteoporosis affects vertebrae, or the bones of the spine, it often leads to a stooped or hunched posture.
Osteoporosis may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Additionally, twenty percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from either complications related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many patients require long-term nursing home care.
Cartilage is the firm, rubbery tissue that cushions your bones at the joints. It allows bones to glide over one another. When the cartilage breaks down and wears away, the bones rub together. This often causes the pain, swelling, and stiffness of OA.
As OA worsens, bony spurs or extra bone may form around the joint. The ligaments and muscles around the joint may become weaker and stiffer.
Before age 55, OA occurs equally in men and women. After age 55, it is more common in women.
Other factors can also lead to OA.
• OA tends to run in families.
• Being overweight increases the risk for OA in the hip, knee, ankle, and foot joints. This is because extra weight causes more wear and tear.
• Fractures or other joint injuries can lead to OA later in life. This includes injuries to the cartilage and ligaments in your joints.
• Jobs that involve kneeling or squatting for more than an hour a day, or involve lifting, climbing stairs, or walking increase the risk for OA.
• Playing sports that involve direct impact on the joint (football), twisting (basketball or soccer), or throwing also increases the risk for OA.
Medical conditions that can lead to OA include:
• Bleeding disorders that cause bleeding in the joint, such as hemophilia
• Disorders that block the blood supply near a joint and lead to bone death (avascular necrosis)
• Other types of arthritis, such as long-term (chronic) gout, pseudogout, or rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a hip to fracture or a vertebra to collapse. Collapsed vertebrae may initially be felt or seen in the form of severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as kyphosis (severely stooped posture).
For those living with osteoporosis, there are a variety of treatment options available. The primary goal of treatment is to prevent or slow bone loss and reduce the risk of fracture.
Everyone is different – some people respond better to one drug than another, while some experience side effects that others don’t. It’s important to speak to the doctor to assess the benefits and risks of each treatment and determine which is best for you. Further, provincial drug plans may cover certain treatments only for certain patients.
As an adult, you can do many things to help maintain healthy bones and to avoid premature bone loss. Making simple changes to the diet, taking enough exercise, and kicking bad lifestyle habits will not just help you prevent osteoporosis, but will also benefit the general well-being.
● Ensure a healthy diet that includes enough calcium and protein, two key nutrients for bone health.
● Get enough vitamin D – made in the skin after exposure to sunlight, the average young adult needs about 15 minutes of daily sun exposure. You can boost vitamin D intake through some foods like oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified dairy foods or juices.
● Maintain a healthy body weight – being too thin (BMI under 19) is damaging to bone health.
● Keep active! Take regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
● Avoiding smoking and heavy drinking