What is osteoporosis?
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis means “porous bone.” When the affected area of the bone is viewed under a microscope, it looks more like a honeycomb. Usually when osteoporosis occurs in the human body, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are larger than those in a healthy bone. Osteoporotic bones have lost density or mass and contain abnormal tissue structure. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. If you’re 50 or older and have broken a bone, ask your doctor or healthcare provider about a bone density test. Rightly called a silent disease, osteoporosis is a bone disease that is almost impossible to feel. The disease causes the body to lose too much bone mass, and often, it doesn’t replace what has been lost. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, it has been estimated that one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is characterized by weak bones that are more likely to break.
Over the past years, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), estimates that 54 million Americans either have osteoporosis or are at risk for it due to a low bone mass. The main concern in osteoporosis is the increased risk of fractures. Using the FRAX [Fracture Risk Assessment] tool, you can actually calculate your own risk of having an osteoporosis-related fracture in the near future. Some factors that increase your risk include a slender body frame, a family history of osteoporosis, and your ethnicity because Caucasian and Asian cultures have a higher risk for osteoporosis. The CDC says a family history of the disease may lead to earlier screening.
Somehow, you’ve gotten shorter
Do your skirts suddenly seem longer on you? Are your favorite jeans suddenly dragging on your shoes? When a person has osteoporosis, the bones in the spine can easily collapse on each other, and as a result, you could lose more than an inch of height. Gauge your height loss based on your height in your twenties as a guide, says Tamara Vokes, MD, professor of medicine and director of the Osteoporosis & Metabolic Bone Disease Clinic at the University of Chicago. For women, a height loss of one and a half inches could be a sign of osteoporosis. Men who have lost two inches from their twenties height have cause for concern. Avoid these “harmless” habits that increase your risk of osteoporosis.
You’ve lost teeth
When your jaw bone is weak, teeth can fall out. While losing teeth can be a symptom of osteoporosis, Vokes says it’s not always a definitive sign. If you are losing teeth, talk with your doctor and order a bone density test to decide whether osteoporosis is causing your teeth to fall out. Get informed about more bone health issues you should know more about.
Your posture is poor, or you have what is called a “widow’s hump”
When the bones in the spine can’t support the body’s weight, they will curve over, causing what is called a widow’s hump. More than just bad posture, the widow’s hump is more pronounced. It is a telltale sign that the bones in the spine are weak.
A close family member has osteoporosis
If someone in your immediate family has osteoporosis, then you may be predisposed to the disease. “Definitely genetics play a big role, but it depends on a lot of factors,” Dr. Vokes says. Other risk factors include gender, race, menopausal status, and body weight. If you know your immediate family has a history of the disease, Dr. Vokes recommends having a bone density screening as early as possible to detect early signs of osteoporosis. Your physician may recommend dietary changes as well as medication, calcium supplements, and exercise regimens. Find out how your home could affect your risk of osteoporosis.
You’ve been told you have a low bone density
Something called osteopenia, low bone density simply means that your bone density—the amount of calcium and minerals packed into your bones—is lower than average. This, however, does not mean that you will develop osteoporosis. That’s what Dr. Vokes says can be so difficult about osteoporosis. It truly is silent. “It gives you no symptoms except that the bones are more fragile and may fracture,” she said. If you do have low bone density, Dr. Vokes suggests getting regular bone density tests to catch osteoporosis before a fracture occurs. Some medications, she adds, can also slow the progression of bone loss. You could also try these 30 ways to increase bone density.
You’ve had fractures for minor problems
If you were to jump off a cliff, there’s a good chance you might break a bone or two (or all of them). If you were to trip on the sidewalk, you probably wouldn’t break any bones, unless you have osteoporosis. People with osteoporosis can fracture a bone by falling from a standing height. “If you have a fracture, that often means that the bones are weak,” Dr. Vokes says. A wrist, hip, or back fracture from a mild trauma should send you straight to the physician’s office to check for signs of osteoporosis.
Check out these 40 ways to slash your risk of osteoporosis.
The osteoporosis definition is a significant loss of bone mineral, and the primary bone mineral at stake is calcium, according to Jonathan Lee, MD, attending physician, Orthopedics, Montefiore Health System. “Approximately 99.5 percent of the body’s calcium supply is stored in bone,” he says. “When more calcium is needed, the bone is more than able to release some of its supply—if it is not adequately restored, the bone becomes brittle.” The NOF recommends women and men get 1,000 mg of elemental calcium a day during midlife. The need rises to 1,200 daily after age 50 in women and after age 70 in men. Make sure you know the signs you’re not getting enough calcium.
According to Abby Abelson, MD chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases. The best way to get the recommended amount of calcium is through the diet. Calcium from milk and other dairy products are usually well-absorbed, and an estimate of the amount of calcium is 300 mg per serving—for example, an 8-ounce glass of milk has about 300 mg of calcium. Low-fat and skim milk, nonfat yogurt, and reduced-fat cheeses (except cottage cheese) are healthy sources of the calcium you need to build strong bones.
Leafy green vegetables also have lots of calcium and the amount of potassium and vitamin K you need to block calcium loss from bones. Other sources of calcium for those who are lactose intolerant include green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, as well as cooked turnip greens, dried figs, orange or fruit juice with added calcium, and oranges. According to Kathy Mulford, MS, CRNP, ONP-C, director of the Bone Health Center University of Maryland St. Joseph’s Medical Center/Towson Orthopaedic Associates, calcium is especially important for people who are struggling with osteoporosis as this will definitely help the situation.
Canned sardines and salmon, eaten with their bones, are also rich in calcium. Canned salmon has 183 milligrams in a 3-ounce serving, making it a beneficial food for bone building. Some fish, such as salmon, contain rich sources of vitamin D that help the human your to use calcium to build bone.”Mackerel and other oily fish are rich in vitamin D.