Osteoporosis strikes people by weakening bones and causing severe fractures, especially in the elderly population. This "porous bone" disease results from a depletion of calcium that makes bones brittle and easier to break. This condition, usually afflicting those over 50 years old, can be prevented or improved by a vitamin-rich diet, exercise, and proper treatment.
Since bone fractures in delicate areas such as the hip and spine are so damaging and costly, we should all take care to reduce our risk for osteoporosis. Some factors are out of our control. Women are affected more than men, and whites and Asians more than Latinos and Blacks, due to genetics. Also, some medications interfere with bone health, so those under treatment for some diseases are prone to osteoporosis. However, a diet rich in calcium and Vitamin D, with plenty of outdoor exercise, promotes healthy bones. Calcium can be found naturally in fish, tofu, dairy products, and dark green vegetables. A daily supplement will ensure your intake meets dietary requirements.
Until we are about 30 years old, our bones are very strong, gaining mass, and flexible. This is because we replace more bone tissue than we take away in the process of resorption. We have plenty of calcium for strength and collagen for flexibility. At middle age, our bodies lose the battle against resorption, and bone remodeling begins to weaken the tissue.
Osteoporosis can be diagnosed at this point by a rheumotologist. They take a special kind of X-ray to measure your BMD, bone mineral density. A T-score of more than -1 means healthy bones; -1 to -2.5 means you are at risk to develop the disease; a score lower than -2.5 indicates osteoporosis.
The damage that results from osteoporosis-caused breaks includes extended hospitalization, lowered mobility, or permanent disability. The spine, hips, and wrists are most likely to break as they lose mass and become fragile. Because osteoporosis is often left undiagnosed until a bone fracture, it is sometimes called a "silent thief." It is very important, once diagnosed, to avoid risky activities that might cause a fall. Also, medication might be prescribed to arrest the weakening bone tissue.