Osteoporosis is preventable

Osteoporosis is the process of thinning of bones and commonly occurs with advancing age. It starts insidiously. One is not aware of it till he starts developing pain over limbs, back or suffers from fractures, without any apparent injury.

As osteoporosis starts, the bone starts getting soft and this process increases progressively unless corrected. The bone becomes soft to the extent that when broken, it breaks into so many soft crumbs that it becomes difficult to be corrected by surgery. It has to be finally reset by major surgery and using artificial appliances like plate, and nail and screw.

Advancing age is a major risk factor for osteoporosis. Women are more prone than men, particularly after menopause as the levels of estrogen are diminished. A diet deficient in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and other minerals necessary to maintain bone density makes one more prone to osteoporosis. General malnutrition increases susceptibility for osteoporosis. Chronic alcohol use is a known risk factor. Tobacco depletes the bone marrow matrix and prevents deposition of essential substances in the bone.

Good physical exercise from adolescence helps to increase the force of bones and muscles and is useful to prevent osteoporosis later in life. In fact if one does not do any physical activity, even supplements of calcium do not help in gaining good bone strength. Obese people are more prone to develop osteoporosis later in life due to lack of physical activity. Women usually develop central obesity around middle years due to hormonal influence and sedentary life styles increasing susceptibility for osteoporosis. Excess physical activity or exercise without proper warming up and balanced diet is also detrimental to the bones.

Long term use of drugs like corticosteroids induces softening of bones. Drugs like antacids, ant thyroid drugs, tetracycline, e.t.c., also inhibit calcium absorption and increase risk of osteoporosis. It is also caused by endocrine diseases like diabetes and hypothyroidism. Hereditary factors are also important. A woman with history of osteoporosis in the family has more chances of developing it. More the number of risk factors present, greater is the risk.

Bones of the limbs, backbone and ribs are more affected in osteoporosis. Spontaneous fractures in thigh or hip bones are common in elderly women. Involvement of the backbone leads to chronic back pain, which is augmented by slightest movement. Spontaneous fracture in backbone is known to cause collapse of the vertebrae and apparent deformities. Clinically it is manifested by severe pain in legs, associated with tingling and numbness.

Diagnosis of osteoporosis is suspected clinically and confirmed by X-rays and measurement of bone density. It is a preventable disease which once when started affects the quality of life of any individual. A person not only suffers from chronic pain but also disability. Therefore it is better prevented.

Intake of good nutritious diet from early age is useful to keep the bones strong and prevent osteoporosis later in life. Milk and milk products like cheese, curds and yoghurt are very useful in this regard. Fresh fruits, particularly citrus fruits, bananas and guavas, also supply necessary nutrients strengthening the bones. One should also consume fresh green vegetables.

It is recommended to take fish, particularly those with edible bones like salmon or sardines, to avoid osteoporosis. Nuts are a good source of dietary calcium. Liver and cod liver oil are animal sources of calcium and vitamin D.

Sunlight is a very good source of vitamin D which is essential for strength of bones. Therefore it is important for every person to walk or do some exercise in sunlight every day.

Regular exercise is important to increase the bone density and maintain it. Even if one starts regular exercise in later life after beginning of osteoporosis, it is useful. Avoiding use of alcohol and tobacco is useful.

Calcium and vitamin D. supplements are given to prevent and also treat osteoporosis. It is a disease better prevented than treated.