Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile. As the name is Latin for “porous bones,” this condition occurs when the tissue in the bone loses strength and density.
Bone health is measured by bone density. The higher the density, the stronger the bones are. Bone density is what sustains the number of minerals, like calcium, within your bones to keep them healthy. With bone density loss, the bones are weakened by the loss of minerals, making the bones brittle.
Approximately 53 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at high risk of developing the condition. Although osteoporosis can occur at any age, it is most common in older adults. Women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men.
Those with osteoporosis are at a higher risk of fracturing or breaking bones while performing routine activities such as simply standing or walking. Osteoporosis typically targets the ribs, hips, wrists, and spine.
Unfortunately, the warning signs for osteoporosis are minimal, which results in many not knowing they have the condition until they experience a fracture. Osteopenia is the condition in which bone density is lower than normal yet not low enough to be considered osteoporosis. Osteopenia is marked by receding gums, weakening and brittle fingernails, and deteriorating grip strength are all signs of osteopenia. If the treatment of early bone density loss does not occur, osteoporosis may develop.
Possible causes of osteoporosis include hormonal changes such as those associated with hyperthyroidism as well as certain medications (i.e. corticosteroids). Age is the main risk factor for osteoporosis due to the fact that around 30, the body begins breaking down bone faster than it can be replaced. Over time, this increases the risk for brittle bones that are more likely to break or fracture. Diet can also be a significant contributor to the development of this condition as those who are deficient in vitamin D and calcium, both of which support bone health, are at a higher risk for osteoporosis.
The main reason women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men is due to menopause. Around the ages of 45-55, the hormonal changes associated with menopause cause a woman’s body to lose bone at a faster rate. However, by ages 65-70, this hormonal imbalance is restored and men and women once again lose bone density at a similar rate.
Severe osteoporosis can result in a “hunchback,” a fracture from sneezing or coughing, back and/or neck pain, loss of height, and a compression fracture in the neck (the breakage of weak vertebrae).
In combating osteoporosis, a healthy diet and conscious lifestyle can prevent severe bone density loss. Regular exercise and avoidance of smoking can also improve bone health.
Here at Holtorf Medical Center, our doctors are specially trained in diagnosing and treating low bone density using natural, safe and effective treatments designed to prevent osteopenia or osteoporosis from occurring.