Disease Management

Osteoporosis – “the silent disease”

Michael Saretsky/ Senior Physiotherapist
ASPETAR
25 May, 2014

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Click here to read this in Arabic

Definition: osteo=bone; porous=full of holes. Bone that is full of holes. Bones in our body with osteoporosis can be a source of pain and are broken easily. Most common bone fractures are in the hip, wrist or spine.

Early warning signs you may have osteoporosis:

  1. History of broken bones as an adult
  2. Unexplained back pain
  3. Loss of more than 2-3cm in height
  4. Posture has become stooped.

Cause:

Bone in humans is constantly formed and recycled. It is living tissue like skin or muscle. A person develops osteoporosis when their body does not produce as much bone as their body is breaking down. We all need to make sure we are doing things that make sure we are not losing bone.

Risk factors:

  1. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
  2. Older people are more likely to develop osteoporosis.  In particular, women who are post menopausal.
  3. Vitamin D deficiency
  4. Low calcium
  5. Lack of exercise particularly weight bearing exercise.
  6. Other factors that decrease calcium absorption such as too much alcohol, eating disorders such as anorexia, tobacco use, surgery to reduce the size of the stomach, hormonal disorders and taking some medications (benefits and risks should be discussed with your doctor).
  7. Lack of exposure to sunlight. Sunlight absorbed through the skin allows the body to produce vitamin D which is combined with calcium in the body to help build bones. Despite the abundance of sunlight, this is a particular problem among Middle Eastern cultures where clothing covers the whole body at all times.

Complications:

When we are young, our bodies are making more bone than we break down, so the risk of osteoporosis for most of us is low. As we get older, our bodies naturally produce less bone and this is when we are at more risk of developing osteoporosis or weak bones.  The more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to develop osteoporosis.

Lifestyle remedies and prevention:

  1. Get enough calcium

Enough calcium varies from person to person, but the daily recommended does for teens is 1300mg, 1000mg for adults, 1200mg for women over 50 and men over 70, and 1300mg for pregnant or breastfeeding teens.

Calcium can be found in low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, canned fish with bones, soy products such as tofu, and other calcium fortified products such as cereal and juices. Calcium supplements are also available but total intake is recommended to be not more than 2000mg per day. (Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health)

  1. Get enough Vitamin D

There are a few foods that naturally have vitamin D and they include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Other foods contain small amounts such as mushrooms and several foods are fortified with Vitamin D during production such as milk, breakfast cereals, and some juice, yogurt and soy drinks.

The other major source is the sun. Sunlight exposure that the body can use for vitamin D production must be directly on the skin. Sunlight through windows or on cloudy days does not work. If your culture or lifestyle does not let you receive sun exposure regularly, you may be Vitamin D deficient and your doctor may suggest supplements to boost your vitamin D intake.

  1. Get enough regular exercise

Regular exercise is beneficial in many ways starting at a young age but extending all the way through to old age. Exercise that involves strengthening muscles in a weight bearing position can improve bone health by stimulating bone growth. Exercises such as walking, jogging, running, stair climbing, skipping rope, and sports that involve impact are useful to improve bone health. Strength training is helpful for the arms and upper spine. Swimming, cycling and elliptical trainers reduce the impact on the bones and are not as helpful in promoting bone health.

 

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