Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Health: Osteoporosis

Two years back while walking briskly I tripped and fell on the road, breaking the little finger of the right hand and a rib. I was 72 then. The orthopedist warned me about osteoporosis and how to take preventive care. It appears that no conclusively effective treatment is available to cure this disease.

What is osteoporosis? As far as I can understand, it is a condition where the bones turn brittle or fragile and may break easily. The fractures are usually in the spine, hips and wrists. Osteoporosis could also lead to stooping

What causes osteoporosis? Generally, calcium and Vitamin D deficiency leading to thinning of bones. A bone density test could give an indication of the risk factors. Other causes of the problem include genetic factors, some medicines, lifestyle, certain surgeries and medical conditions.

What are the symptoms? Often, osteoporosis shows no early symptoms and is diagnosed only when a bone is broken. In later stages there could be back pain, stooping (Dowager’s hump), and loss in height.

Who are susceptible? Older people are more likely to have osteoporosis than younger ones. Females, particularly post-menopausal women, seem to have increased susceptibility. This could be partially due to decrease in the body’s oestrogen content.

What can be done? Bone density tests can indicate some therapy, supplements and exercises to fortify the bones. Consult an expert. But there is one action that anyone can take – change in lifestyle.

What changes? Well, it is more or less the same as the recommendations for better health. Don’t smoke; smokers have increased risk of loss of bone density than non- smokers. Moderate drinking is fine but heavy consumption of alcohol retards bone growth and also increases the risk of falling. Exercises like walking and climbing stairs are good (if you have cardiac condition, check with your doctor). Have a balanced diet. Avoid cola based aerated drinks.

And, take care to avoid falls and giving undue pressure on bones.

Please note that these are only a layman’s understanding. Check with your doctor for authoritative directions.



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