Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low density. It can affect anyone, although women past menopause are at the highest risk of developing it. There are actions you can take today to prevent osteoporosis and strengthen your bones. Here are the basics of osteoporosis prevention.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition that occurs when the creation of new bone does not keep pace with the deterioration of old bone. This is a condition that develops with age, but osteoporosis can begin as early as 25 when peak bone density is reached. Low bone mass and weak bones can lead to fractures, especially in weight-bearing bones of the body, such as the hips and legs.
Osteoporosis can affect people of all races and genders, and the causes are pretty straightforward. Bones are made up of live tissues that are continually forming and growing. Calcium and vitamin D are both essential to the formation of strong bones. Calcium also helps the heart and other organs function.
Any extra calcium taken in that is not used for organ function is absorbed into the bones to increase bone density. If calcium intake is insufficient, bones do not have the opportunity to grow strong and are at risk. The resulting bone is porous and easily compressed and functions almost like a sponge with pockets instead of solid spaces.
Osteopenia is a condition of low bone density that is not quite as extreme as osteoporosis but still results in weaker, less dense bones.
What causes osteoporosis?
The leading cause of osteoporosis is hormonal which is why women in menopause are especially vulnerable to this disease.
Low levels of estrogen in women and low levels of androgen in men have been identified as the primary cause of osteoporosis for each gender. Change in endocrine function due to age has also been identified as a cause for both men and women.
Other causes of osteoporosis can include:
- Overuse of corticosteroids
- Lack of exercise (including weight-bearing exercise)
- Bone cancer
- Cushings disease
Osteoporosis risk factors
Some other risk factors for developing this disease are:
- Gender: Women are at greater risk than men
- Race: Asian and Caucasian people have the highest level of risk of all races
- Health factors: Smoking inhibits bone density and increases risk, as does abuse of alcohol
- Eating disorders: People with anorexia nervosa or bulimia are not able to absorb nutrients and build strong bones
- Heredity: People who have a direct family member with osteoporosis are more likely to develop it also
- Other health issues: Rheumatoid arthritis is a risk factor for osteoporosis, and thyroid conditions can increase risk as well
What are osteoporosis symptoms?
Symptoms of osteoporosis can be easily ignored or confused for other conditions, and often osteoporosis is undiagnosed until a person suffers a fracture.
Until a fracture occurs, a dull ache or radiating pain may be felt in the back along the spine. Patients may begin to lose height as the spine compresses. Some patients may suffer spinal compression fractures in the cervical spine. Repeated spinal fractures may cause a bend in the upper back, also known as a “dowager’s hump” because it generally occurs in elderly women.
Hip and leg pain may also indicate weakness in bone strength. A sharp stabbing pain and swelling usually indicates a fracture, but often patients cannot remember a fall or injury that caused it. The bones are so brittle that major force is not necessary for injury. Something as simple as sneezing can sometimes cause fractures.
Fractures that occur with minimal trauma are called stress fractures.
Although they may sound less serious, because the surrounding bone is less strong, healing can take a long time and be poor. Patients may suffer chronic pain as a result of this poor healing, and they may become less mobile. Because exercise is an important part of healing, this can lead to a vicious cycle of pain and the risk of re-fracture.
In relation to hip and leg pain, osteoporosis does not directly cause pain in the hips and legs unless there is a fracture present. However, the strength of the bones is directly connected to the strength in the muscles. The musculoskeletal system is interconnected, and the deterioration of bone puts more stress of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in these weight-bearing structures. Muscles have to work harder, and alignment of the joints may suffer, causing increasing pain and soreness in these areas.
If a patient suffers from an arthritis condition in combination with osteoporosis, this can complicate the issue even further. Arthritis adds inflammation to the mix and affects the ligaments and tendons. Add a weak structural support system to osteoporosis, and pain in the hips and legs can be amplified even further.
The basics of osteoporosis prevention
Throughout our lifetime, our old bone tissue is continuously replaced by new bone tissue. As we grow older, however, our bodies have a more difficult time replacing the deteriorating bone matter. When the new bone tissue can’t keep up with the old bone tissue, the bones become weak and extremely fragile, meaning fractures can occur much more easily than they would otherwise.
There are steps you can take today to keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis from developing. Osteoporosis can be prevented with early action, and hip and leg pain can be avoided with changes to diet, exercise, and lifestyle. Check out our osteoporosis prevention tips below.
1. Get tested
The National Osteoporosis Foundation has set guidelines and recommends that the following groups undergo mineral bone density testing:
- Postmenopausal women under 65 with risk factors for osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal women over age 65
- Anyone with the 50 medical conditions associated with osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal women with a fracture
A bone density test is not recommended if a patient is not willing to make lifestyle or treatment changes based on the results.
2. Avoid excessive alcohol
Alcohol interferes with your body’s absorption of magnesium, which is one of the elements crucial to good bone health.
Even if you’re taking in a sufficient amount of magnesium each day, excessive or even frequent alcoholic drinks could prevent your body from efficiently putting that magnesium to work.
3. Practice regular weight-bearing exercises
If you sit for most of every day, you are doing your bones a disservice. Although it can seem counterintuitive, to remain strong, bones need to spend plenty of time resisting gravity versus resting. Movement and exercise, especially weight-bearing activities like strength-training, can keep bones strong and healthy.
Any one can receive benefits from strength training. Check out our guide to getting started with a strength training program here.
4. Reduce your caffeine consumption
Caffeine is another substance that aids in depletion of magnesium levels. Additionally, caffeine increases the body’s excretion of calcium, which is another element important to building bone mass.
5. Avoid excessive contact with certain metals
Prolonged or excessive contact with certain metals, known as heavy metals, can have devastating affects on bone remodeling. These include aluminum, mercury and lead.
Unfortunately, these metals are found in many common household, certain fish, and personal hygiene products, so it is imperative that you read product labels carefully.
6. Reduce sodium in your diet
Do you love salty foods? If you want to keep your bones healthy and strong, you may decide to limit your sodium intake since salt has been shown to negatively impact calcium absorption.
7. Avoid excessive corticosteroid use
Corticosteroids have also been linked with poor calcium absorption and can hasten bone loss. If you’re already taking corticosteroids under the supervision of your doctor, don’t stop taking them without his or her permission.
However, if you’re concerned about potential bone loss, it might be a good thing to discuss with your doctor.
8. Reduce your stress
Much of bone remodeling occurs at night while you’re sleeping and the body is at rest. Stress causes the body to increase its production of cortisol, which causes cortisol levels to remain high even while you sleep, making it extra difficult for your body to grow new bone tissue. Limit stressors in your life, or practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, to lower your cortisol levels.
Get expert help
Certain risk factors may mean that you’re unable to prevent osteoporosis entirely, but they can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of having it or reducing its severity.
If you’re suffering from osteoporosis pain and need specialized help, a pain doctor can help. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.