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What is Osteoporosis? Tips to Keep your Bones Healthy

How to Keep your Bones Healthy? Best Practices to Make Stronger Bones

What is Osteoporosis? Tips to Keep your Bones Healthy

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mavra Farrukh

In osteoporosis patients younger than 70, mortality rates increase significantly, especially in the first few years after diagnosis. Men are at a higher risk of osteoporosis than women. Moreover, the incidence of osteoporosis in the first five years following a fracture is approximately 26% in women and 37% in men. Therefore, osteoporosis and bone health problems must be treated in a timely manner.

Why is Bone Health Important?

Every movement of our body is a complex act of the musculoskeletal system that includes bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues. Out of all these parts, bones are the most important, as they support and allow us to move. They provide structure and protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury.

Basically, a bone is a living tissue that is made up of collagen and calcium. Calcium is a mineral that adds strength and hardness to the structure of bones; hence it is an essential mineral in our body. In addition to this, our bones can rehabilitate with continuous new bone formation and desolation of old bones.

A higher bone mass level till the age of 35 years can protect you from developing bone loss problems in your older age. However, a few factors, such as insufficient diet or hormonal changes, can modify this process and lead to bone mass loss which can result in Osteoporosis. 

Signs and Symptoms of Weak Bones 

Following are the symptoms of weak bones you should watch out for:

  • Change in posture (a stooped posture)
  • Pain in the lower back
  • Bone fractures (mostly wrist, spine, and hip bones)
  • Loss of height 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Receding gums 
  • Weak and brittle fingernails 

What is Osteoporosis?

The word osteoporosis means porous bone. It is a metabolic disease that weakens bones, making them fragile to the point that they can break easily. It is also a silent disease since patients may not notice any changes until their bones break. About 82% of osteoporosis cases are in females, mainly post-menopausal females. Fractures can happen in any bone. The most common injuries include broken wrists, broken spinal bones, and hip fractures.

Stages of Osteoporosis:

There are four stages of osteoporosis

Stage 1:

The first stage of osteoporosis occurs when bone loss and bone formation take place at the same time. This stage has no symptoms or signs, and the bone density scores are above -1 in this stage.

Stage 2:

In stage two, you have entered the time when bone loss is happening faster than bone formation. This stage also has no symptoms, and the bone density possibly indicates osteopenia. In this stage, the bone density score could be anywhere from -1 to -2.5 

Stage 3:

Stage three is the stage when you are considered to have osteoporosis. In this stage, bone loss far exceeds bone growth, putting you at a higher risk for fractures. Unless you experience a fracture, you likely will not have any other symptoms at this stage. Also, the bone density score is 2.5 or lower in this stage.

Stage 4:

In the 4th stage, you have severe osteoporosis. The risk of fracture is higher in stage four than in stage three. In this stage, you may experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, lower back pain, and changed posture. You will likely have one or more fractures when you have entered stage four.

Causes of Osteoporosis

The disease is characterized by the loss of a lot of bone mass and changes in the structure of bones.Some risk factors may lead to bone loss or the development of osteoporosis or can increase the likelihood that you will develop this disease.

Some of the common factors that may increase the risk for osteoporosis include the following:

Hormonal changes

A decrease in certain hormones can increase the chances of developing osteoporosis. Such as

  • Low estrogen level in females after menopause (it directly affects bone density)
  • A decreased level of testosterone in men. As testosterone levels decrease with age so the older a man gets, the more likely he is to develop osteoporosis. 

Diet

Diet plays a crucial role in the cause of osteoporosis. The risk of osteoporosis increases if you eat a diet lacking calcium and vitamin D. Excessive dieting or poor protein or less calcium intake can increase bone loss or osteoporosis risk.

Other medical conditions

Some medical conditions such as gastrointestinal disease, endocrine, and hormonal disease, certain types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, and anorexia nervosa can also develop the risk of osteoporosis.

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Warning Signs of Osteoporosis

Following are a few warning signs for osteoporosis:

Poor posture or a windows hump

Back pain, height loss, hunched posture, and loss of height can result from the weakening of your vertebrae (backbones). Hence, in case if you experience any of these conditions, it could be a sign of osteoporosis.

Low bone density

Low bone density (sometimes known as “osteopenia”) indicates a condition in which your bone density is lower than average but not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. If you have low bone density, it does not guarantee that you will have osteoporosis in the future. In fact, for some people, the condition is excellent. However, it does mean that if you begin to lose bone mass rapidly, you may be more likely to suffer fractures or breaks since you have fewer bones than other people.

Body size

The bone density of skinny, thin-boned women and men is lower than that of large-boned individuals, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.

What Food to Avoid with Osteoporosis?

Salt

Sodium is the main component of salt. It encourages the excretion of calcium from your body. That is why eating a lot of salt (sodium) and processed food can cause your body to lose calcium and can lead to osteoporosis. 

Caffeine

According to research, drinking more than three cups of caffeinated coffee or tea a day can decrease your body’s calcium level, which may result in osteoporosis. 

Soda

Soda intake may also damage your bones. Excessive phosphoric acid intake can decrease your body’s calcium level, which may result in reduced bone density and even osteoporosis and fractures.

Red meat

Meat protein contains a large amount of sulfur-containing amino acids. To cope with this influx, the body dissolves a large amount of calcium from your bones and releases it into the bloodstream. So people with osteoporosis should limit their intake of red meat.

Fish liver oil

A large amount of vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for healthy bones, skin, teeth, and eyes, may negatively affect your bone health. So you should avoid fish liver oil and nutritional supplements containing retinol. 

Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine can decrease bone density levels. Excessive intake of alcohol can cause bone loss and osteoporosis. Hence it should be limited or avoided.

Medical and Non-Medical Treatment of Osteoporosis

Bisphosphonates are usually the doctor’s first choice for treating osteoporosis. These include:

  • Alendronate 
  • Risedronate 
  • Ibandronate 
  • Zoledronic acid 
  • Denosumab 

These medicines may cause heartburn for a while. Furthermore, Denosumab is delivered by giving injections just under the skin every six month

Non-medical treatments:

  • Increase the calcium intake
  • Weight-bearing exercises 
  • Hiking
  • Yoga 

The given non-medical treatments can enhance bone strength and can also help reverse osteoporosis.

Can Osteoporosis be Reversed?

No! Osteoporosis cannot be completely reversed. But there are a few lifestyle and diet adjustments that you can make to improve bone loss. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe medications to help you remodel and slow down the bone loss. 

Research shows that calcium and vitamin D together can build stronger bones in females after menopause. It can also help with other disorders that cause weak bones, such as rickets. Antibiotics can also help you rebuild your bone density.

You can prevent fractures by some lifestyle adjustments such as:

  • A nutritious diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Healthy habits 
  • Use of supplements

What are Rickets? 

Rickets is a condition that affects bone development in kids. It softens and weakens bones in children. It usually happens because of a prolonged deficiency of vitamin D.

Symptoms of rickets

The followings are the signs and symptoms of rickets:

  • Weakened muscles 
  • Pain in legs
  • Spinal pain
  • Delayed growth
  • Thickening of ankles, wrists, and knees.

Causes of rickets

Rickets is mainly caused by an insufficient supply of calcium and vitamin D in children. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, which is why not getting enough vitamin D can cause rickets. 

What is Osteomalacia?

Softening of bones is known as osteomalacia. In this condition, the bones can bend and collapse more quickly than normal. It mainly occurs because of a lack of vitamin D or your body’s inability to absorb sufficient calcium. 

Signs and symptoms of Osteomalacia

The symptoms of osteomalacia include the following:

  • Pain in bones and joints 
  • Weakness and muscle pain
  • Fragility-related fractures 
  • Height loss
  • Numbness around your mouth
  • The irregular rhythm of the heart 

Causes of Osteomalacia

It usually develops due to an extreme and prolonged deficiency of vitamin D or less frequently due to kidney or heart disorders. These disorders can heckle the body’s ability to absorb vitamins which can lead to osteomalacia.

What is Osteopenia?

This medical condition causes bone loss and weakens bones by reducing bone density. Most of the cases occur in people over 55, particularly women.

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Symptoms of Osteopenia

It has no specific signs or symptoms. But you may experience digestive problems or bone and joint pain. Osteopenia can also make you feel tired.

Causes:

Aging is the most common cause of osteopenia. During aging, your bone mass peaks and your body breaks down old bones more quickly than it produces new ones, resulting in bone density loss.

Role of Vitamin D in Strengthening the Bones

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in strengthening our bones. Our bodies cannot absorb calcium without the intake of vitamin D, which is essential for good bone health. People who lack vitamin D develop conditions like osteomalacia and rickets, which causes bone weakness, bowed legs, and other skeletal deformities, such as a changed posture. 

Foods rich in vitamin D

Vitamin D-rich foods include: 

  • Salmon
  • Oranges
  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Mushrooms
  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy milk

And many more.

What Causes Vitamin D Deficiency?

It can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

Limited exposure to the sun

Your body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet rays interact with a protein known as 7-DHC in the skin, which converts it into vitamin D3 (the most active form of vitamin d), so if you limit your exposure to sunlight, you may experience vitamin D deficiency.

Diet

Not getting enough vitamin D in your food can also cause a deficiency. Those who follow a strictly vegan diet are likely to suffer from this problem.

Obesity 

Fat cells extract vitamin D from the blood. Vitamin D levels are often low in people with a body mass index of 35 or higher.

Medicines that can lead to vitamin D deficiency

Medicines that can cause vitamin D deficiency are mentioned below:

  • Laxatives
  • Orlistat (a weight-loss medicine)
  • Rifampin 
  • Cholesterol-lowering medicines 
  • Seizure-control drugs
  • Steroids

Role of Calcium in Bone Health

Approximately 99% of the body’s calcium is found in bones. It is the major component of bone. It provides strength and structure to the skeleton and also protects your bones. 

Signs of low calcium

Signs of low calcium include

Complications associated with calcium deficiency

Calcium deficiency disease is also known as hypocalcemia. It occurs when your blood has a low calcium level. A long-term calcium deficiency can cause dental issues, cataracts, rickets, osteopenia, alterations in the brain, and osteoporosis. All these can cause the bones to become brittle and disrupt metabolic rate and other bodily processes.

Food and vitamins to combat calcium deficiency

Food that helps with calcium deficiency is mentioned below:

  • milk, cheese, and other dairy foods
  • soya drinks with added calcium
  • green vegetables such as curly kale
  • bread
  • anything made of fortified flour 

When to Consult a Doctor?

When it comes to bone health, it is most of the time ignored by patients until symptoms start to make them feel ill. Taking care of your bone is essential, even if there is no apparent symptom of any bone disease. It is essential to consult a doctor if there are any symptoms of bone weakness or compromised bone health.

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FAQs About Bone Health Answered By your Doctor Online Team

Is it possible to live a long life with osteoporosis?

Fortunately, osteoporosis can often be managed well. By avoiding certain foods and vitamins that may lead to osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, people can reduce their risk of breaking bones.

Do you have to worry about your teeth if you have osteoporosis?

There is a possibility that you will lose teeth if you suffer from osteoporosis. In addition to causing the jawbone to become less dense, osteoporosis can also cause tooth loss. Hence, people with osteoporosis tend to have fewer teeth.

How can osteoporosis be treated safely?

The use of bisphosphonates during osteoporosis is generally considered to be safe.

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