Osteoporosis, a type of bone disease, is characterized by thinning bone mass and bone tissue deterioration.

When viewed under a microscope, a typically healthy bone appears like a honeycomb with small holes and spaces between its tissue structure. For someone with osteoporosis, however, the holes appear larger and the spaces are wider due to bone mass loss. As a result, the bones become weaker and fragile over time.

When you suffer from osteoporosis, you’re vulnerable to fractures, back pain, a decrease in height, stooped posture, and a slightly curved back.

Osteoporosis in Numbers

More than 53 million individuals in the United States have low bone mass and are, therefore, at risk of developing osteoporosis. The bone disease, however, is more prevalent in women.

One in 3 women at age 50 are at risk of osteoporotic fractures, while the ratio is slightly lower in 50-year-old men at one in 5. Globally, around 200 million women develop osteoporosis by age 60.

What Happens in Osteoporosis?

The bones, like any tissue in the body, need nutrients to grow and thrive. From birth to old age, bone resorption, formation, and remodeling happen in a constant cycle.

Bone formation is larger and denser among children and teenagers. Younger people’s bone structure also absorbs nutrients more efficiently. When aging eventually kicks in, however, this process of resorption and remodeling slows down and if your bone tissues do not get enough nutrients, then your body develops weaker bones or experience bone mass loss.

Older women lose bone mass faster during the first few years of menopause because of estrogen deficiency. A drop in estrogen levels affect the structure of the bones and cause the reduction of bone strength.

How Do You Know if You Have Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis might sometimes be referred to as a silent disease because there are no prior symptoms of bone weakening. In most cases, you’ll only know you have osteoporosis after experiencing a fracture.

Sometimes, however, there are tell-tale signs such as brittle nails, receding gums and weakened grip in the hands. Aside from age, you might be at risk of having the disease if the following factors are present:

  • Your diet lacks calcium and vitamin D.

  • You have a sedentary lifestyle.

  • You smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.

  • You are taking maintenance medications containing elements that impact bone health.

  • You have a history of osteoporosis in the family.

  • You have an autoimmune or hormone disorder.

  • You have a small-boned frame and low body weight.

Osteoporosis Prevention

The body reaches peak bone mass at age 30 and if you followed a healthy lifestyle in your younger years, then you lower your risk of osteoporosis by as much as 50%. With aging, however, more efforts and conscious choices are needed to ensure bone health as some of the risk factors might still be mitigated.

  • Increase your calcium and vitamin D intake. If you’re a woman over 50 or a man over 70, then you’ll need at least 1,200 mg of calcium daily and 600 IU of vitamin D.

  • Exercise and do physical activities. Your bones do not become strong with inactivity. As much as possible, do high-impact and weight-bearing exercises for your bones like running, dancing, and weight lifting. You can use a back brace when doing your workouts for a concentrated lumbar support. Seek the help of a professional for the best routines for your age and body.

  • Regularly eat fermented foods. Yogurt, kimchi or sauerkraut are just some of the examples of these foods as they contain probiotics or good microbes. Studies show that these help with bone mineral density and lower hip fracture risk.

  • Sleep more than six hours a day. Another study found out that 50-year-old men and woman who slept more had significantly lower osteoporosis diagnosis after a period of four years.

  • Cut the vices and addictive habits. Smoking and drinking alcohol contribute to the deterioration of your health in general. These lower your body’s immune system and deplete the nutrients your body needs to function. Heavy drinking has also been associated with calcium depletion and lowered estrogen, thus affecting your bone health directly.

  • Discuss options with a doctor. If you are taking medications for other conditions, then ask your doctor about its long-term effects on your bones. If it’s possible, ask if alternatives are available.

Complications of Osteoporosis

When left unchecked and unmanaged, osteoporosis can lead to complications. Fractures of the spine, hips, wrist, knees, and ankles can lead to pain and discomfort as well as the development of chronic conditions or disability. Fractures might also increase the chances of death, especially among age 65 and above.