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Osteoporosis – an overview

22.05.2016

This month is Osteoporosis Awareness Month. Osteoporosis, also known as “brittle bone disease” is a debilitating disease affecting half of women and a fifth of men over fifty. It’s very important to be aware of osteoporosis and understand the changes we can make in our lives now to lower our chances of getting it.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is the name given to the disease which causes bones to become fragile and prone to breaking. Osteoporosis sufferers often break bones after minor falls, with hip and wrist fractures being the most common.

osteoporosis

Generally, our bodies are good at repairing themselves. Up to the age of about 35, our bones continue to grow and repair, keeping up with the rate of strain and damage they’re sustaining. After that time, unfortunately, the healing process slows, and the structure of the inner part of the bone, called the trabecular bone, becomes thinner.

Most people with osteoporosis only find out they have it when they fall and fracture a bone. The fracture is painful but osteoporosis isn’t, making it difficult to detect.

Fortunately, by looking after ourselves and being aware of this “silent disease” we can lower our risks of developing osteoporosis.

Risk factors

People over fifty are more at risk. Their bodies are slowing down and not healing as quickly as they once were.

Women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men. This is because they have smaller bones to begin with, as well as having their bone growth decelerate after menopause.

You also put yourself in the higher-risk category if you smoke, because the toxins taken in from cigarettes upset the balance of hormones in your body and prevent calcitonin – the bone-building hormone – from doing its job.

Having a very low body weight is also linked to osteoporosis. If your bones are finely built, you can’t afford to lose more bone when your body slows down in later years. If you have a low body weight because you have a poor (or extreme) diet, your body may not be taking in the calcium it needs to build healthy bones, let alone the balance of nutrients we need for all-round health.

People who exercise excessively are also at risk. As in post-menopausal women, overtrained athletes also suffer a lowering of hormone levels, and there is a link between hormone imbalance and osteoporosis.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to lower your risk of developing osteoporosis.

Exercise is very beneficial, as long as you don’t overdo it. Your bones become accustomed to sustaining your weight during exercise, encouraging bone growth and increasing strength.

Eat well. Bone-building calcium exists in dairy products and some dark green vegetables. You can also find it in fortified food and drinks. Protein (fish, meat, nuts and pulses), and food which contains potassium, magnesium, vitamins C, D or K and omega 3 are also beneficial.

Get out in the sunshine! Vitamin D, which we get from sunlight, helps the body to absorb calcium, the mineral we need for bone growth. Even going out towards the end of the day is beneficial, and it enables you to avoid the powerful sun of the early afternoon.

vitamin d sunshine

Work on your balance. Yoga, Pilates, gymnastics and dance are all great forms of exercise which also encourage good balance and posture.

Osteopathy and osteoporosis

Osteopathy is a system of treating the body through manipulation of the musculature and skeleton. A manual method of healthcare, it works on the body’s alignment and muscle balance and may help to prevent falls. If you have osteoporosis or you are concerned about it, please let us know and we can discuss your risk factors, lifestyle and best approach to treatment.

 

For more information about osteoporosis, including treatment, please visit the National Osteoporosis Society at nos.org.uk