Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones tissues of our body become more porous, making them fragile and prone to fractures. Inside healthy bones there are small spaces resembling a honeycomb structure, in osteoporosis these gaps grow bigger while the outer bone becomes thinner and weaker, making the bones lose their density and strength. People suffering from this condition are at a higher risk of bone fracture while doing normal everyday activities like walking, standing, running or experiencing minor falls. Bones of the hips, spine, ribs and wrists are most commonly damaged.
In early stages, people suffering from osteoporosis often do not experience any noticeable symptoms until they get a fracture. If other members of your family, especially parents suffer this condition, then its best to get regular bone checkups done. Some of the signs which may suggest onset of osteoporosis are:
Receding gums: if your jaw is losing bone tissue it may cause your gums to recede.
Brittle fingernails: although there are other environmental factors which may cause brittle fingernails (such as gardening and swimming), it could be a sign to at least get a bone checkup done.
Weak grip strength: according to a study done on postmenopausal women, weaker grip strength can indicate loss of bone density.
Symptoms of later stages:
Increased risk of fractures: simple routine activities, even strong coughing and sneezing may cause bone fractures.
Compression fractures: osteoporosis causes collapse of the vertebrae bones leading to poor posture and soreness.
Loss of height and stooped posture: compression fractures in spine may cause decrease in height over time and a slight curve in the upper back.
Back and neck pain: compression fracture may cause pinching of nerves in between spinal bones resulting in perpetual pain.
Causes and risk factors:
There are multiple factors involved in bone health but medical conditions like hyperthyroidism and use of certain corticosteroid medications like cortisone are the most probable causes. Senile osteoporosis is a type which is caused by aging without the intervention of other causes. Risk factors can be:
Age: bones in our body are broken down and replaced on a regular basis but as we cross 30, the rate of degeneration surpasses that of regeneration.
Gender: females are usually at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
Race: Caucasian and Asian descendants are more prone.
Family history: If your parents of siblings suffer from osteoporosis then you have a higher chance.
Hormone levels: drastic changes in hormone levels during menopause, especially the decline in estrogen increase the rate of bone generation in females. Males also experience reduction of testosterone but generally women loose more bone tissues at similar age.
Lifestyle: poor nutrition, low intake of calcium, smoking, drinking and lack of physical activities are also major factors propagating osteoporosis risk.
Diet for osteoporosis:
To promote bone health, it is imperative to have a diet rich in calcium (RDA: 1300 mg), magnesium (RDA: 400 mg), vitamin D (RDA: 0.015 mg), vitamin K (RDA: 1 micrograms per kg of bodyweight) and protein (RDA: 0.8 gms per kg of bodyweight).
Calcium rich foods: dairy (especially milk and yoghurt), soybeans, and broccoli.
Magnesium rich foods: spinach, nuts (especially almonds), and seeds.
Vitamin D rich foods: fish, mushrooms, and eggs.
Vitamin K rich foods: spinach, broccoli, and organ meats.
Protein rich foods: fish, meat, eggs, and dairy.
There are certain foods that should be kept in check as their over-consumption may cause loss of calcium or hinder calcium absorption.
Carbonated beverages: excessive phosphorous and caffeine in these drinks causes loss of calcium through urination.
Salt: adding excessive salt in food, stock cubes, cured meats, processed foods.
The Takeaway Box:
Osteoporosis is a silent disease which may manifest itself suddenly after a fall or a fracture. The onset of this disease has no noticeable symptoms and thus I recommend post menopausal women to get a regular bone check-up at least once in two years. Regular exercise, healthy exposure to sunlight and a diet majorly comprising of whole foods can substantially help prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis. In addition to salt and fizzy drinks, it is also a good idea to keep your coffee intake below 4 cups a day and have plenty potassium rich foods like potatoes, beans and lentils to neutralize acid in the body which can cause loss of calcium.
Bones.nih.gov. 2019. Osteoporosis Overview | NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. [online] Available at: <https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/osteoporosis/overview> [Accessed 12 August 2021].