Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the amount and quality of skeletal bone are reduced, predisposing the bones to fracture. A healthy skeleton undergoes a continual process of bone breakdown and remodelling. In osteoporosis, bone is broken down faster than it is rebuilt, resulting in a decrease in the bone mass and a corresponding fragility of the skeleton.

Symptoms

  • In many cases, osteoporosis is asymptomatic - the first indication of any problem is severe back pain or a fracture, sometimes caused by a relatively minor fall or trauma to the skeletal system
  • Fractures may produce pain in the back that ranges from mild diffuse discomfort to severe localised pain. Fractures may also cause disability and reduced mobility
  • Loss of height may occur as the skeleton loses density or as a result of fractures. Wedge fractures of the spine may cause stooped posture and a dowager's hump (medically referred to as kyphosis). The height loss may be as great as 13-20 cm
  • Lax abdominal muscles may also occur, and the abdomen may be protruding

Causes

  • Risk of osteoporosis increases with age, especially affecting women, who become more susceptible to osteoporosis after Menopause due to hormonal changes. Other risk factors include:
  • Inadequate calcium or vitamin D levels at any stage in life
  • Inadequate protein consumption at any stage in life (although note that high intake of animal protein may increase the risk of osteoporosis, and high intake of vegetable protein may be protective)
  • Sedentary lifestyle or periods of immobility or bed rest at any stage in life
  • Extremely high levels of exercise may also increase risk
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • History of fracture during the adult years
  • Some health problems and prescribed medications, (e.g. Rheumatoid Arthritis, thyroid or parathyroid disease, diabetes type 1, lactose intolerance, other chronic digestive disorders; corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, some diuretics, aluminium-containing antacids)
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, salt or sugar
  • Being of slight or frail build, especially with fair skin colouring
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Hormonal factors (e.g. age at Menopause, periods of amenorrhoea in women or low testosterone in men)

Nutritional & Herbal Solutions

  • Take extra calcium to reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Choose a formula that provides around 900 mg of calcium per day (preferably in three doses of 300 mg), along with co-factors such as vitamin D3, magnesium, manganese and boron to support the absorption of calcium and its uptake into the skeleton
  • Vitamin D3 improves muscle strength in the elderly and may therefore reduce the incidence of falls and the risk of hip and other fractures. Vitamin D3 plays an important role in stimulating calcium absorption by the body and may help to improve bone health and bone density.

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • If you have osteoporosis, follow your doctor or other healthcare professional's recommendations with regards to diet, exercise, supplement and medication use in order to maintain as much bone density as possible
  • Some research suggests that following a vegetarian diet helps to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. A number of factors may be involved in this effect, including greater consumption of dairy foods (which provide calcium), soy protein (which is believed to exert oestrogen-like effects on bone), and leafy green vegetables (which provide vitamin K, which in turn supports bone mineralisation). Additionally, meat products may increase calcium withdrawal from the bones, a phenomenon that does not occur in vegetarians
  • Unless you are intolerant or allergic to dairy products, they are likely to be the richest source of calcium in your diet. Aim to include two to three serves of low-fat dairy products in your diet every day. If you're not able to consistently consume this much dairy, a calcium supplement is highly recommended
  • Include tofu and other protein-rich soy products in your diet on a regular basis. Soy contains phytoestrogens that may help to maintain bone mineral density
  • Enjoy 10 minutes of sunshine on your hands, face and arms on most days of the week to promote the formation of vitamin D in your skin, and reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Regular exercise throughout life helps to maintain skeletal health in old age. Exercise helps to improve bone and muscle strength, delays age-related bone loss and improves co-ordination and balance, reducing the risk of falls. The most important forms of exercise for the prevention of osteoporosis are weight-bearing exercise (e.g. jogging, walking, dancing and aerobics) and resistance training (e.g. weight lifting). However, if you already have osteoporosis these activities may not be suitable for you, so talk to your doctor or physio about an exercise program that's specially tailored to your individual needs
  • Avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, soft drinks and salt, all of which have negative effects on the body's calcium stores

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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