There are many who believe that osteoporosis is an illness that is specific to the elderly and adults. But it is not so, as the disease can affect both adults and children. It, undoubtedly, affects adults more than children.
Osteoporosis is a disease that leads to a decrease in bone mass and deterioration in the bone tissue, which leads to weakening of the bone and an increased possibility of fractures.
Unfortunately, it is a silent disease that does not give any prior warnings to the person affected, and when someone suffers from fragility, the chances of bone fractures are more, leading to the occurrence of many complications.
When a bone fracture occurs due to fragility, a few patients can coalesce their broken bone and return to normal again. However, one in four women and one in every eight men over the age of 50 will experience a fracture related to fragility in their remaining stages of life.
The risk for osteoporosis and osteopenia — low bone density that’s not yet in the osteoporosis range — is higher in women because female bones typically are smaller and less dense than male bones. Nevertheless, there are other factors that help accelerate the loss of bone mass, including heredity as well as ageing.
The lack of calcium and Vitamin D deficiency in food causes this problem to worsen, especially in children. Not being exposed to sunlight is a problem in our country due to the intense heat of the sun and not because of the lack of sunlight.
Smoking and the use of some medications, such as cortisone permanently or for long periods of time, also cause this. And do not forget that some diseases, such as overactive thyroid, chronic lung disease and even endometriosis, may increase the problem of osteoporosis in some people.
It is also important to note that lack of movement is one of the major causes in the elderly as well as teenagers — as a result of excessive use of electronic games and addiction to them —that compounds this problem.
The more a person has the above mentioned factors, the greater his risk of having osteoporosis. However, it is very important that you try to make an assessment using an online programme, such as FRAX and others.
Personally I believe that these tools may help to predict a person’s risk of fracture between the ages of 40 and 90. The algorithms give a 10-year probability of hip fracture and a 10-year probability of a major fracture in the spine, hip, shoulder or forearm.
One of the tools used for diagnosing osteoporosis is DEXA scan, which measures your bone mineral density. If your score is 1-2.5, that means you have osteopenia, while a result of 2.5 or lower is defined as osteoporosis.
The medication choice will depend on the extent of bone loss, your tolerance for various medications and the goals you and your physician set together. The side effects of some osteoporosis drugs have received a lot of attention in the media, but deciding not to take one could mean you’re missing out on significant protection against a fracture. Not taking a medication also carries risks. There are trade-offs to think about!
Hence, it’s never too early to start thinking about maintaining bone mineral density. For instance, a patient should take calcium, but for those who have difficulty meeting their calcium requirement through food, supplements are a good alternative. However, patients on dialysis with renal failure should consult their physician before taking it. In addition to that, getting enough Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption. It is well-known that bone is interlocked protein strands with minerals and calcium attached, so protein is important for strong bones.
Importantly, any activity that puts your bones to work stimulates the remodelling that keeps bone strong. So, just get outside and walk, stop smoking and cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Keeping your bones strong is a smart goal at any age. Fortunately, there are different steps you can take at home, and with your doctor’s help, to protect against painful fractures that can reduce your independence and even put you at risk of dying due to medical complications.
(Dr Yousuf Ali al Mulla, MD, Ministry of Health. He is a medical innovator and educator. For any queries regarding the content of the column, he can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)