An Introduction to Osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that results in decreased bone density. This means the structure of the bone changes, which leads to a decrease in bone strength and can put you at risk for fractures. This change usually begins in the older adult, in both males and females, but is most commonly seen in post-menopausal women.
Why does this happen?
As we age, two things start to happen:
1) Our bodies start to break down bone faster than it can rebuild it. This cycle of breakdown and build up is normal to release the needed minerals stored in our bones, such as calcium and phosphorus. However, age slows the building-up process.
2) Hormonal changes: both men and women experience a decline in hormone production with age. There are complex interactions between hormones, including estrogen, and cells' signaling to build more bone.
What are the symptoms?
Osteoporosis is considered a ‘silent’ disease. That means there are no obvious signs or symptoms. However, as the disease advances, you may notice the following changes:
1) Stooped posture from loss of height of your vertebrae column of your spine.
2) Fractures that occur from daily activities such as bending, lifting, or coughing
3) Fractures from a fall.
Risk Factors for Osteoporosis.
1) Age: older people are at greater risk.
2) Gender: females are at greater risk, especially thin, small-boned female.
3) Medications: certain medications such as steroids and chemotherapy impair the bone-building process.
4) Diet: a diet that is high in processed and pro-inflammatory foods and low in vitamin D and calcium.
5) Lifestyle: heavy drinking and smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis.
6) Sedentary behavior: people who do not engage in regular physical activity are at greater risk.
How is it diagnosed?
Osteoporosis is usually detected on a DEXA scan or bone scan. This is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan that contains low levels of x-rays. It's a quick, painless test where you lie on a table for several minutes while a scanner is passed over your body.
Treatment for Osteoporosis.
1) Exercise is a very effective treatment, according to both the NIH and NOF. Walking, running, dancing, elliptical, and stair stepping are great examples of aerobic activities that stimulate bone growth. Weight lifting and resistance exercise is also very effective in stimulating bone production and is easy to do in your own home.
2) Medications: bisphosphonates are the most commonly prescribed class of medications. Visit Mayo clinic for a comprehensive list of prescribed medications and their side effects.
3) Supplements: calcium and Vitamin D.
4) Nutrition: maintaining a healthy, plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables and legumes is essential. In fact, eating less than one serving of fruit/veggie daily was associated with a 39% increased risk of hip fractures, while those who ate 4-5 servings were not at risk. (4) National Osteoporosis Foundation is a trusted source of information and has good nutrition references.
For more exercise ideas to prevent bone loss and improve overall strength and decrease your risk of osteoporosis, visit our PT experts at OneStep.
4: Benetou, Vassiliki, et al. "Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Hip Fracture Incidence in Older Men and Women: the CHANCES Project." Journal of Bone and Mineral Research : the Official Journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, vol. 31, no. 9, 2016, pp. 1743-52.