Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens and thins the bones until they are fragile and can break easily, often following a small bump or fall. It can affect all bones in your body, but more commonly in the wrist, hip and spine.
Our bones stop growing by the age of 16-18, however bone density still gradually increases up until our late 20’s. From the age of around 35 our bone loss increases and bone density decreases, which is a natural part of ageing. If our bone loss continues to increase this can eventually lead to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is more common in women due to bone loss increasing at a much quicker rate after the menopause.
Although anyone can develop osteoporosis, there are groups of people who are more at risk of having it. You are more at risk if:
- You have had an eating disorder
- Are underweight
- Are female and have had an early menopause
- Are female and have had a hysterectomy
- You have a medical condition such as Crohn’s disease or coeliac disease
- You are or have been a heavy drinker
- You are or have been a smoker
- You have had a parent who has broken a hip by a minor fall
- You are immobile for a long time due to medical conditions
- You have taken corticosteroid medication for a long period of time
At the early stages of bone loss there are no symptoms, however once the bones have weakened signs and symptoms may include:
- A stooped posture
- Loss of height
- Back pain, caused by fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Bone fractures that happen much easier than expected
If you are concerned that you or a loved one has signs of osteoporosis, visit your local GP so they can help you further.
Types of Osteoporosis
There are four different types of the bone disease:
Primary osteoporosis is the most common type of osteoporosis. It is more common in women than men, due to bone loss becoming more rapid after the menopause, when the production of oestrogen slows down. This is usually between the ages of 45 and 55. Men’s production of testosterone slows down between 45 and 50 years old.
Osteoporosis doesn’t usually affect people until they are 60 years old and over, however women are usually affected at an earlier age than men due to starting out with a lower bone mass.
Secondary osteoporosis has the same symptoms as primary osteoporosis, however can occur at any age and is caused by medical conditions such as leukaemia, hyperparathyroidism and hyperthyroidism. It may also be a result of taking certain types of medication that cause bone breakdown. Some of these medications include: high-dose inhaled corticosteroids, too high a dose of thyroid replacement or aromatase inhibitors, which is used to treat breast cancer.
osteogenesis imperfecta is a rare form of osteoporosis which is present at birth. It can cause your bones to break for no reason.
Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis
Idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis is another rare form of osteoporosis, however it occurs in children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old, during the times when there is increased amounts of growth. It is unknown as to why children have excessive bone loss or too little bone formation. People with this type of osteoporosis are more prone to bone fractures.
Your genes determine the height and the strength of your bones, however there are lifestyles changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing it.
Eating a healthy balanced diet is good for preventing a number of health conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Calcium and Vitamin D are both extremely important to have in your diet.
Calcium keeps your bones strong. Adults needs 700mg a day which should be easily done in your daily diet. Foods that contain high amounts of calcium are:
- Dried fruit
- Leafy green vegetables
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium, so it’s important to ensure you do not become Vitamin D deficient.
Vitamin D can be found in:
- Milk (Although inconclusive at this point, some areas of thought are that milk may be a contributing factor of osteoporosis)
- Oily fish
- Nuts and seeds
- 10 minutes of sun twice a day through the Summer months
- If you are an older adult, and/or dairy intolerant then you can get a vitamin D injection from your GP
If you don’t think you are getting enough Vitamin D, you can take supplement tablets to ensure you get your daily amount. The recommended amount is 10 micrograms a day for adults.
Completing 2 hours and 30 minutes of exercise a week of aerobic exercising such as Yoga, cycling and walking will make a huge difference to improving your bone density and preventing osteoporosis. Some exercises such as Yoga may help to reverse osteoporosis.
Weight-bearing exercises, where your feet and legs support your weight is very important as it improves the bone density. This can be a mix of Yoga, skipping, running, dancing and aerobics.
Resistance exercises to work all of your muscle groups is also important. Working your muscles twice a week will keep your bones and muscles strong.
When doing resistance exercises, remember to work your shoulders and arms, legs, hips, back, abdomen and chest.
You can do resistance exercises at home or at the gym. At home, you could do Yoga routines, press-ups, sit-ups and kettle bell exercises.
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