Essentially, osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’. It’s a condition that affects the quality and the density of your skeletal bones because the struts, mesh-like structure within bones, become thin causing them to become brittle, weak and fragile, and prone to sudden and unexpected fractures.
Osteoporosis, resulting in an increased loss of bone mass and strength, is usually discovered only after the weakened bones have caused a painful fracture, in otherwise perfectly healthy women, usually in the hips, wrists and the spine. Biologically, most women’s bone density increases and develops through their adolescence and into their 20’s, building more bone than lost, reaching a peak of optimum bone mass at the age of 30, and decreases gradually after they are 35 years of age. Bone breakdown begins to overpower bone buildup during the ageing process. Once this loss of bone starts weakening the internal structure of the bone itself, it is labeled as osteoporosis.
Experts suggest a direct relationship between the development of osteoporosis in healthy women, and the lack of oestrogen during and after menopause. It is called the “silent disease” because it occurs without symptoms. The condition can be diagnosed after the bones become so weak that any kind of physical strain or fall causes a fracture or collapsed vertebrae. After menopause, bone contraction overtakes the building of new bone and therefore, the cortical bone (hard bone) is lost at a rate of 0.5% per year, whereas the trabecular bone (the spongy bone inside the cortical bone) is lost at a rate of 1% per year.
Type I osteoporosis is usually diagnosed after menopause, when oestrogen levels drop steeply, and lead to trabecular bone loss.
Type II osteoporosis is senile osteoporosis that develops after the age of 60, and involves a thinning of both the trabecular and cortical bones.
Statistically, Asian and Caucasian women over the age of 50 are more susceptible to developing osteoporosis. As a matter of fact, women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis than men. One way to detect osteoporosis is when it manifests as severe back pain or loss of height, leading to curvature. If people around you find you shorter than you are, consulting a doctor and getting appropriate tests is advisable.
—> A hormone produced by the ovaries, oestrogen, plays the major role in protecting against bone loss. After menopause, the ovaries stop most of their oestrogen production that leads to bone loss and the inability to absorb and retain calcium.
—> Surgical removal of one or both ovaries.
—> Early menopause before the age of 40) or irregular periods lead to prolonged gaps of time where hormone levels are low, increasing the risk of loss of bone mass.
—> Because they have less bone to lose, menopausal or post-menopausal women with a thinner frame face a greater risk of developing this condition.
—> A family history of osteoporosis or any signs of osteoporosis (fractured hip, broken wrists due to minor bumps) is the most important cause.
—> Low bone mass, measured by a bone density test.
—> Excessive drinking or smoking depletes the oestrogen level even more, which is previously affected by menopause already.
—> Low levels of dietary calcium and Vitamin D.
—> Bone Density Scanning (DXA) or Bone Mineral Density, are done to get information about bone mass. A result below the required bone density level confirms osteoporosis.
—> Doctors recommend establishing a regular exercise program. Any weight bearing exercise (sports, jogging, dancing), even walking for at least 30 minutes, can help in making the bones stronger and ease the bone less.
—> The U.S recommended daily allowance of calcium for women with an average risk of osteoporosis is 1,000mg. For menopausal and post-menopausal women, the allowance increases to 1,500mg per day. Eating food high in calcium, such as milk and dairy products, fish, dark and lay green vegetables, can maintain the strength in your bones and prevent the condition from developing.
—> The body needs Vitamin D to absorb the calcium intake. To make enough Vitamin D, Doctors recommend soaking up sunlight for a total of 20 minutes daily. Foods rich in Vitamin D are eggs, fatty fish, cereal and milk.
—> Supplements and medication can help treat or prevent osteoporosis, but menopausal women should consult a health-care provider to discuss their previous medication regime and its impact/non-impact on the new drugs.
—> Hormone Replacement Therapy is useful for alleviating and preventing the increased rate of bone loss because the surgical oestrogen elevates the calcium balance in the body.
—> Massage therapy, acupuncture and acupressure are advised to women with severe back or joint pain.