Osteoporosis, meaning ‘porous bone’) refers to a disease where the bones of the body become weakened and brittle over time due to bone loss. In almost all cases osteoporosis in completely painless until a fracture or break occurs in the bone. Elderly people are most commonly affected with osteoporosis, though people at any age can suffer from it.
Many people associate osteoporosis with calcium deficiencies and old age. Calcium deficiency can definitely cause bone loss and bone brittleness over times. The old age theory however, needs closer examination as to why this occurs with the elderly. Below are some causes of osteoporosis you may not have heard about:
• Lack of Estrogen: When women go through menopause, their estrogen levels drop. Decreased estrogen has been directly linked to osteoporosis and bone loss. Similarly, girls who cease to menstruate (due to surgery, eating disorders or even regular athletic activity) have a chance of experiencing bone loss due to low estrogen levels.
• Lack of Testosterone: Men convert testosterone into estrogen and use both hormones to promote bone growth. Lack of testosterone means lack of estrogen, which can result in osteoporosis.
• Lack of Calcium: Your bones need calcium to replace their tissue and to grow. But so do many other organs in your body. If you are calcium deficient, your organs will steal the calcium from your bones, resulting in brittle bones or bone loss.
• Lack of Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Without Vitamin D, your body may not absorb enough calcium for bone regrowth.
• Medications: Anti Siezure drugs and corticosteroids have been linked to osteoporosis.
• Lack of Exercise: Astronauts can experience bone loss if they do not exercise in space simply because their bones are not being used for prolonged amounts of time. Regular exercise helps keep your bones strong.
As mentioned, the symptoms of osteoporosis are literally non-detectable until a serious event occurs such as bone breakage and fractures. Bone loss occurs slowly and over time, and without x-rays, completely undetected. That’s why it’s important to ask your doctor about osteoporosis. Severe symptoms of osteoporosis usually occur when bone loss is advanced. The inevitable symptom is a fractured or broken bone.
Usually a complete surprise, a bone with advanced bone loss can break with the smallest amount of physical activity. Hugging a loved one, swinging a gold club, stumbling on the stairs; all of these minor incidents can cause your bones to break or fracture, causing extreme pain and discomfort. After a bone has broken or fractured, it is even more susceptible to breaking. This is commonly seen in the elderly who break a hip multiple times.
Osteoporosis treatment and prevention focus on two main angles: diet and exercise. Once you have advanced bone loss, the exercising you do will be far different from preventative exercise. The diet, however, remains unchanged. Below is an example of an osteoporosis diet used to promote bone growth and healing:
• Vitamin C: Foods high in vitamin C provide you with enough of the essential vitamin to help bone regrowth. Some foods that contain high amounts of vitamin C are:
o collard greens
o turnip greens
o bok choy
o orange juice (calcium fortified)
o ice cream
o baked beans w/ sauce
• Vitamin D: In addition to Vitamin C, you also need the essential Vitamin D which helps you absorb and use the Vitamin C from the foods above. Foods that contain Vitamin D include:
o cod liver oil
o fortified cereals
o egg yolk
Along with the osteoporosis diet, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to stay active and exercise your bones. With exercise comes strength – not just in the muscles but the bones as well. So start eating healthy and exercise once a day – your body will thank you!