What happens in osteoporosis, exactly?

What is it?

Osteoporosis is a disease which is characterized by weak and brittle bones. It can get to the point where bones break even while doing things like coughing or bending over. Fractures can, especially in old people, be very dangerous and cause chronic and debilitating pain. Besides from fractures, osteoporosis doesn’t typically show other symptoms.

Osteoporosis is very common. 15% of white people in their 50s have it, and 70% of those over 80 years old are affected.

Hip fracture is perhaps the most serious potential consequence of osteoporosis. The six-month mortality rate after one is 13.5%, and many have substantial difficulties with movement afterwards.  Vertebrae, wrist, and rib fractures are also common.

What causes it?

It’s natural for bone density to start decreasing after the age of 35. In some people, however, the pace of this is too quick and/or the starting density was too small, and they develop osteoporosis.

Women are at a higher risk of osteoporosis than men. This is because their estrogen levels drop after menopause, which has a direct effect on bone density.   Other risk factors include low testosterone levels in men, excessive dieting, and alcohol misuse.

It is quite widely believed that drinking milk leads to stronger bones. There is, however, very little if any evidence to support this.

What happens during it? 

Our bones renew themselves all the time. Bone cells called osteoclasts destroy bone, while osteoblasts rebuild it.

There are three main mechanisms of osteoporosis. The bone might not have grown dense enough during youth, osteoclasts might destroy bone too quickly, and osteoblasts might not rebuild it quickly enough. Menopause is linked to osteoporosis because a lack of estrogen increases the activity of osteoclasts.

How can it be treated?

Since falling can do a lot of damage to people with osteoporosis, it is important to prevent that from happening. Increasing muscle strength and balance trough exercise and treating underlying problems like poor eyesight is a good idea.

Exercise, and a healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D can both prevent osteoporosis. Estrogen supplements can also be used in women who have experienced menopause.

 

 

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osteoporosis, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoporosis/Pages/Treatment.aspx

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