Our every movement is a complex act of the musculoskeletal system that includes bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and soft tissues. Bones play a crucial role in maintaining our system, such as providing the structural foundation, storage house of minerals, protecting various organs, providing movements, and being a medium for the production of blood cells.
In our body, few organs have the power of regeneration, and bones are one of them. Our bones are capable of remodeling with continuous new bone formation and desolation of old bones. Various factors can modify this process and leads to loss of bone mass. A higher bone mass level till the age of 30 years can protect you from developing bone loss problems in your older age. Osteoporosis is the most common bone loss problem seen in older people and becoming a matter of concern globally. More and more people are suffering from this disease.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a metabolic disease that causes our bones to be weaker and fracture-prone. It is a silent disease, and we can’t recognize osteoporosis until we experience a fracture. We may have bone loss for many years without feeling any symptoms. In osteoporosis, our bones lose minerals and become brittle, making them more susceptible to fracture. Women are more prone to develop osteoporosis than men. About 80% of osteoporosis cases are in women, mainly post-menopausal females.
Why are women more at risk for osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but women have a higher prevalence of the condition. It can happen for several reasons, but in women, the chances of developing osteoporosis are higher because of:
- Menopause: The reason for developing osteoporosis and weaker bones after menopause is that the ovaries produce little to no estrogen hormones. This hormone regulates bone metabolism by monitoring the activity of osteoblasts (cells that make new bones) and osteoclasts (cells that scavenge old bones). Lower estrogen levels affect these cells’ functions and make them produce less new bone with poor bone density.
- Family history: Women have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis when they have a family member with osteoporosis or low bone mineral density.
- Ethnic background: Bone health problems and osteoporosis vary for women of different ethnicity. Caucasian, Latina, Asian-American, and African-American women are more prone to low bone density and osteoporosis.
- Low calcium diet: Vitamin D and calcium are essential for building and maintaining strong bones.
- Eating disorders: If you have a history of an eating disorder, such as bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa, there are increased chances of having weaker bones.
- Less physical activity: Sitting idle or not working out can lead to a higher risk of getting weaker bones and osteoporosis.
- Menstrual irregularities: If you are not pregnant or breastfeeding and don’t have periods for three consecutive weeks, you have a higher risk of developing less bone mass. It is due to amenorrhea condition in which ovaries produce less to no estrogen hormones.
- Chronic diseases: If a woman suffers from certain illnesses, such as premature ovarian failure, celiac disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, and depression, the chances of lessening bone mass increase.
- Medications: Medicines to treat various chronic conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, thyroid condition, or lupus, increases the risk of osteoporosis in women.
- Smoking and alcohol: Regular alcohol consumption or tobacco abuse contributes to a higher risk of osteoporosis in women.
Osteoporosis in young adult female
Osteoporosis is an age-related disease that is common in older people. But, it can sometimes affect young women having regular periods in their 20s or 30s. If the women have a low bone density in premenopausal age, it increases their chances of having osteoporosis later in life.
Different ways to boost bone health
The best way to prevent the bones from weakening is to build stronger bones. It is crucial to strengthen bones during childhood and adolescence, to prevent osteoporosis later in life. With aging, our bones don’t remodel quickly compared to the bone loss process. After menopause, the bone loss process happens even faster. The following are some methods that can slow the natural bone loss process and prevent osteoporosis in later life:
- Get plenty of vitamin D and calcium-rich diet: You can include food items in your diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, such as dairy products, leafy green vegetables, kale, broccoli, fish (especially salmon), almonds, soy products, and calcium and vitamin D fortified wheat or other flours. Enough sun exposure also fulfills vitamin D necessity.
- Daily exercise: Regular physical activities, such as weight-bearing exercises, strength training, balancing exercises, and swimming, help you build strong bones and slower the bone loss process.
- Abandon smoking and alcohol consumption: Limit your alcohol drinking (for women, one drink a day at most), and avoid smoking, as both are grievous for bone health and promote bone loss.
- Healthy lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle is a root cause of various illnesses. A person who spends more time sitting is prone to osteoporosis and other bone-related issues.
- Medication: You can ask your healthcare provider about calcium and vitamin D supplements to improve calcium and vitamin D levels if you aren’t getting much from your diet.
If we neglect our bones’ health, the damage will be irreversible. Many women suffer from morbid fractures due to osteoporosis, including hip fractures and spinal fractures. Don’t avoid your health and prioritize it so that you can fully enjoy your life with good health.
Dr. V. A. Senthil Kumar | HOD & Senior Consultant – Orthopaedics, Spine Surgery and Arthroscopy | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi