Life After Menopause: Osteoporosis September 14, 2009Posted by feminestra in Feminestra, Health, Prevention.
Tags: Feminestra, Health, Menopause, Osteoporosis, senior health
Osteoporosis is a disease which weakens bones making them more prone to breakage. Many times, osteoporosis is not found until a fracture has already happened, which, unfortunately, increases the risk of having another fracture due to the disease. It is hard to catch osteoporosis early because it does not have any visible or painful symptoms. However, there are steps that you can take to prevent the onset of osteoporosis, or slow the progression if you already have the disease.
The exact cause of osteoporosis is not yet known, however, we do know how it develops. Bones consist of two parts, a hard outer shell, and a sponge-like inner core. Your bones, like most of your body, are made up of living tissue which grows and dies just like any other tissue in your body. Normally, the body can build more bone than it loses. But when a bone is weakened by osteoporosis, the inner core becomes less dense and loses mass. In other words, the “holes” in the “sponge” part of your bones become larger. This loss in bone mass is a normal part of the aging process starting around the age of 30, but when it reaches a certain point then osteoporosis has set in.
Osteoporosis has been linked to menopause as well. The lack of estrogen and absence of menstrual periods can cause and/or accelerate the progression of osteoporosis. Women who have or are experiencing early menopause are at an even greater risk for the disease.
Symptoms of osteoporosis may not be initially seen until the disease has progressed quite a bit. It is often called the “silent disease” because many people do not know they have osteoporosis until they suddenly break a bone. The symptoms that do show, besides a broken bone, may be stooped posture, loss of height, and back pain caused by collapsed vertebrae. To determine if you have osteoporosis you should receive a bone mineral density (BMD) test. These are painless, accurate test using low-power x-rays to determine bone strength. These tests can provide information about your bone health and determine if you have osteoporosis before problems begin.
There are several risk factors that are linked to osteoporosis. These include age, gender, ethnicity, bone structure, and family history. Maximum bone density is reached around the age of 30 after which, bone mass begins to decline naturally with age. The greatest risk for the disease occurs around the age of 50. Women are also at a higher risk for the disease, as much as four times as likely as men. This may be due to women’s naturally lighter, thinner bones, longer life spans, and loss of estrogen due to menopause. Ethnicity also plays a big part in the onset of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that Caucasian and Asian women have the greatest risk for the disease. Studies also showed that Caucasian women are more likely to have hip fractures then Asian and African-American women. Your natural body structure may also put you at a greater risk. People who have smaller frames are at a greater risk for the disease because they have less bone to lose than people that have bigger frames. Probably the biggest factor for whether or not you may get osteoporosis is your family history. If your parents or grandparents had or showed signs of osteoporosis, you may be at a greater risk of the disease.
There are ways to protect against the onset or progression of osteoporosis. Most of these are simple lifestyle and dietary changes that can have a greatly change your risk for the disease. Exercise is a good way to help make your bones stronger and prevent bone loss. Try to establish a regular exercise program that has you doing weight-bearing exercises at least four times a week. These can be as simple as jogging, playing tennis, and dancing. Your diet plays a big role is the health of your bones. Try to increase your intake of calcium (1,500mg a day) which can be found in milk, salmon, and dark green vegetables, and vitamin D (400-800 IU a day) which can be found in eggs, fortified milk, and fatty fish like salmon. Also limiting your alcohol consumption and not smoking can reduce your risk.
Osteoporosis can be a debilitating disease, even deadly. However, there are steps that can be taken to prevent or slow the progression of the disease. Those preventative steps will help you live a longer, healthier life.