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Osteoporosis Facts – Definition and brief overview of osteoporosis

iStock_000009323556XSmallOsteoporosis (literally meaning porous bones) is a common condition characterized by reduced mineral bone density which most often affects women after menopause. People with osteoporosis have weak and brittle bones which greatly increases the risk of fracture. Most often in the wrist, spine or hip and can severely affect the quality of life and life expectancy. The causes of osteoporosis are not fully understood but the majority of health experts believe that age and hormonal changes are most likely the most responsible for reduced mineral bone density and explain the incidence of osteoporosis in women after menopause. Osteoporosis can of course also affect younger women as well as men.

Besides estrogen deficiency after menopause, there are also several other risk factors which greatly increase the risk of developing osteoporosis including inadequate physical activity, genetic factors, malnutrition, alcohol abuse and tobacco smoking but osteoporosis can be also caused by certain medical conditions and prolonged use of certain medications such as corticosteroids. People with osteoporosis often do not have any symptoms which would reveal they have reduced mineral bone density. Thus the majority of cases are discovered only after a fracture most commonly broken hip but advanced osteoporosis can also result in back pain, a stooped posture or loss of height through time.

Osteoporosis is both treatable and preventible and it is never too late nor too early to make your bones stronger. You can significantly reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis with lifestyle change. Latter is also crucial for treatment of osteoporosis which commonly also involves taking medications such as biphosphonates to slow bone loss and maintain healthy bone mass.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis – Common signs and symptoms of osteoporosis and bone density tests

The bones are constantly changing. New bone is made and the old one is broken down in a lifelong process known as the bone turnover or bone remodeling. In young people until about age of 30 years, new bones are formed faster than the old ones are broken down. After about 35 years of age the formation of new bones slows down and whether you will develop osteoporosis or not also greatly depends on the bone mass that was attained by the age of 30 years and the pace of bone loss after age of 35 years.

People with osteoporosis in early stage do not have any signs and symptoms which might imply on reduced mineral bone density. Thus osteoporosis advances unnoticed in the vast majority of people and remains undiscovered until a fracture – most commonly broken wrist, spine or hip occurs. People with advanced osteoporosis might experience the following symptoms:

– back pain
– a stooped posture
– tooth loss
– loss of height over time

Due to the fact that osteoporosis does not have any specific symptoms you are highly recommended to have regular bone density tests if you are:

– a postmenopausal woman with at least one risk factor for osteoporosis
– a woman older than 65 years of age or a man older than 70 years of age
– older than 50 years of age and have a history of broken bone
– have a condition or taking medications which increase the risk of osteoporosis

Causes of Osteoporosis – The influence of hormonal changes after menopause and bone remodeling on osteoporosis

Why some people develop osteoporosis and the other do not is not fully understood. The hormonal changes – reduction of estrogen levels after menopause (postmenopausal osteoporosis) is one of the most probable explanations for the incidence of osteoporosis in women after menopause but it does not explain why osteoporosis also affects younger women and men.

Many scientists believe that the bone remodeling, more precisely bone density attired to the age of 30 years when bone mass reaches its peak and pace of bone loss after 35 years of age have major influence on osteoporosis. Both bone density attired by the age of 30 years and pace of bone loss after 35 years of age depend on several factors such as nutrition, physical activity, frame size (thinner people tend to have less bone mass) and some other factors which might be modifiable or non-modifiable.

Osteoporosis is often divided into primary osteoporosis and secondary osteoporosis. The latter is caused by an underlying disease of disorder such as diabetes, thyroid disorders (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease and some other conditions but secondary osteoporosis can be also caused by exposure to toxins such as cadmium. The primary osteoporosis is further divided into postmenopausal osteoporosis which is believed to be caused by the reduction of estrogen levels and most often affects women after menopause and senile osteoporosis which affects both men and women after 70 years of age.

Treatment of Osteoporosis – Medications for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can be successfully treated by a combination of medications and change of lifestyle which bases on a healthy diet, fall prevention and physical therapy. There are several medications used for treatment of osteoporosis which can be divided into three types: antiresorptive agents, bone anabolic agents and hormonal therapy.

Bishosphanates (alendronate, ibandronate, risedronate and zolendronic acid) are antiresorptive agents and are the most frequently prescribed medications for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis but are also effective in men and young adults. They inhibit the bone breakdown, preserve bone mass, increase the bone density in spine and hip, and significantly reduce the risk of fracture. Bishosphanates are very effective and if following the directions for use the adverse effects are relatively rare but are not impossible and can be very severe.

Raloxifene is a class of medications which act as estrogen receptors and reduce the risk of vertebra fracture for 50%. There are no evidence of raloxifene reducing the risk of other fractures and thus it is less appropriate for people older that 65 years of age which are at increased risk of hip fracture. Raloxifene is also not appropriate for men.

Calcitonin is also among the most commonly prescribed antiresorptive agents but it is commonly reserved for people who do not tolerate biphosphonates and other medications.

Teriparatide is a bone anabolic agent which is most often used for patients with advanced osteoporosis. Unlike other medications for osteoporosis which only prevent further bone loss, teriparatide actually stimulates new bone growth.

Hormonal therapy has been shown very effective for treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis significantly reducing the risk of fractures but it has been also proved to increase the risk of breast cancer, blood clots, coronary artery disease and stroke.

Osteoporosis Risk Factors – Factors which increase the risk of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease of bone which is often associated with hormonal changes after menopause and age but it can also affect young women and men. There is a wide range of factors which greatly increase the risk of osteoporosis and are commonly divided into potentially modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors on which you have any influence.

The following risk factors of osteoporosis are commonly considered as avoidable:
– Malnutrition. Diet low in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, vitamins C, E, K and A, and other nutrients essential for healthy bones is a major contributor to low bone density, accelerated bone loss and increased risk of fractures.
– Vitamin D deficiency.
– Smoking tobacco. The influence of tobacco on osteoporosis is not fully understood but the researches have shown that smokers are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
– Alcohol abuse. Excessive alcohol consumption interferes the body’s abilities to absorb calcium.
– Inadequate physical activity and excessive exercise. Sedentary lifestyle as well as excess exercise increase the risk of osteoporosis.

The following factors also greatly increase your risk of developing osteoporosis but unfortunately, you have no influence on them:
– Gender. Osteoporosis is almost twice more common in women than in men.
– Age. Loss of bone increases with age.
– Genetic factors. People with a family history of osteoporosis are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
– Frame size. Thinner people tend to have smaller bone mass.
– Certain medical conditions. Osteoporosis can be induced by some diseases and disorders such as diabetes, thyroid disorders (hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome and Crohn’s disease.

In addition to the mentioned modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, osteoporosis can be also caused by certain medications such as corticosteroids. Medication-induced osteoporosis is often classified as a modifiable risk factor but the use of medications which increase the risk of osteoporosis is often unavoidable.

Osteoporosis Natural Treatment – Osteoporosis self-care measures and lifestyle

Osteoporosis is a serious condition which requires medical treatment. However, you can do a lot to prevent further bone loss and maintain a healthy bone density with a change of lifestyle. Even more, latter is often also recommended by the physicians as a part of the conventional treatment of osteoporosis.

Fall prevention is the most important self-care measure if having osteoporosis because every time you fall you risk a fracture. There are several strategies to prevent falls but you are highly recommended to start with the following few simple measures:
– Use the walking sticks and wear comfortable shoes with flat soles when going for a walk. If possible, stay at home when it is slippery outside.
– Remove all unnecessary obstacles from home, especially from the ground which might cause you to trip and fall. Make sure all rooms are properly lighted and never walk in the dark.
– Regularly check your eyesight and hearing. If having difficulties with balance or gait problems you should seriously consider physical therapy.

In addition to fall prevention, it is also highly important to maintain bone mass and to prevent further bone loss. You are highly recommended to:
РEat a healthy diet which should include foods high in calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins A, D, K, C and E,  and other nutrients which promote bone health. Reduce intake of salt and alcohol, and quit or do not start smoking.
– Increase your vitamin D levels by sunlight exposure (15 minutes per day is enough) but avoid direct sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 16 p.m. Getting enough vitamin D is as much important as obtaining the recommended amounts of calcium.
– Consider regular exercise (according to the directions of your doctor or physiotherapist) to increase strength of your bones and maintain a good posture.

Osteoporosis Home Remedies – Popular osteoporosis home remedies

Medications for osteoporosis are the most effective way to prevent further bone loss and to maintain healthy bone density. Unfortunately, all can cause series of side effects which can be very severe, for example hormonal therapy which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, blood cots, coronary artery disease and stroke. Hormonal therapy is less frequently used for treatment of osteoporosis due to its potentially severe side effects although it has been proved very helpful for maintenance of bone density. The potential side effects of other medications for osteoporosis are generally less severe but you should consult about the potential health risk of a particular medication with your health care provider.

If you have osteoporosis you probably will not be able to avoid the use of medications but you can “feed” your bones and make them stronger with several home remedies which are believed to promote bone health and relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis. The following home remedies believed to promote bone health, to relieve the symptoms of osteoporosis or/and to reverse the effects of osteoporosis:

– apple cider vinegar
– honey
– dandelion tea
– sesame seeds
– dong quai (traditional Chinese medicine)
– peanut butter
– apples
– tofu
– calcium supplements
– fish oil supplements

Safety note: Please keep in mind that some of the mentioned home remedies base of traditional medicine and folk tradition, and that there are any or little scientific evidence to support their use. You are highly recommended to consult with your health care provider before starting to use any remedies, especially herbal remedies and dietary supplements.

Osteoporosis Diet – Foods to eat and foods to avoid

Foods you eat have a major impact on your general health and overall well-being, and they can both worsen and improve your osteoporosis. Eating more healthy diet will help you to obtain all the necessary minerals, vitamins and other nutrients to strengthen your bones or at least slow down the bone loss.

Calcium is one of the most important minerals for maintenance of bone density. The daily recommended allowance of calcium for women after menopause and the elderly men is about 1000 to 1200 mg per day. Choose calcium rich foods such as milk, cheese and other dairy products, beans, figs, broccoli, dandelion leaf, sesame, almond, sardines, salmon and most green leafy vegetables. However, to absorb calcium you need adequate amounts of vitamin D which can be obtained through sunlight exposure as well as through some foods such as fish oil, fatty fish species and whole egg. You should also increase consumption of foods high in zinc such as seeds, nuts and shellfish as well as consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables which are good sources of vitamins C and K, fibers and many other nutrients which promote bone health.

Besides foods to eat there are also several foods to avoid, in first processed foods and foods high in salt. Some health experts also recommend to reduce the consumption of meat and meat products because some researches suggest that vegetarians are less prone to osteoporosis. Keep in mind that vitamin A, some vitamins from the B vitamin group and some other nutrients which are highly important for healthy bones are found only in foods of animal sources. You are also recommended to reduce the consumption of alcohol, carbonated beverages and drinks containing caffeine although the researches have shown that caffeine has little effect on osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis Complications – Osteoporosis health risks

The bones give the body the support, enable movement, protect the internal organs and store minerals. The mineral bone density gradually decreases with age, while many women after menopause and men older than 70 years of age develop osteoporosis which is characterized by severe reduction of mineral bone density resulting in weakening the of the bones and making them more vulnerable to fracture, sometimes even without severe fall or trauma.

Risk of fracture, especially in the wrist, spine or hip is the most frequent and serious complication of osteoporosis. Latter can also cause back pain and severely affect the normal movement which in turn can severely affect the quality of life, while the risk of fracture can even lead to premature death. According to some estimations, almost every second woman and every fifth men older than 50 years of age will have at least one fracture  because of osteoporosis by the time of death. The risk of death because of fracture in women is often compared with risk of death from breast cancer because nearly one fourth of people die within one year after breaking hip mostly due to postoperative complications, while hip fracture can also result in disability.

In addition to risk of fracture because of fall, people with advanced osteoporosis are also in risk of spinal fracture even if not falling or injuring themselves. When weakened enough, the vertebrae can simply collapse or compress causing severe pain, stooped posture and loss of height.

Osteoporosis Prevention – Osteoporosis preventive measures

The causes of osteoporosis are not fully understood, while the factors which are believed to increase the risk of developing osteoporosis are not always avoidable. Despite that you can significantly reduce the risk of osteoporosis if avoiding the risk factors and by keeping your bones strong and healthy with a healthy lifestyle.

It is never too early to start taking care for your bone health. Many leading health experts believe that bone density which is attired by 30 years of age plays highly important role in strength of your bone in later period of life as well as the pace of bone loss after age of 35 years. Thus you should start with osteoporosis preventive measures which base on diet rich with calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients which promote bone health and regular exercise as soon as possible. However, it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet and to be adequately physically active either. On the contrary, even people who already have osteoporosis are recommended to change their lifestyle.

In addition to adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D (latter is required for calcium absorption) and regular exercise, you should also seriously consider to quit smoking because tobacco increases bone loss and to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol which interferes calcium absorption. If having a medical condition or taking medications such as corticosteroids which increase the risk of osteoporosis you should consult with your health care provider about additional osteoporosis preventive measures and to have regular tests of your bone density.

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