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Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease. It can be best described as a deterioration in bone mass and of its structure; this leads to the bone becoming fragile and in turn leads to an increased risk in fractures.
Despite a better understanding of osteoporosis, especially with regards to preventative methods such as a good nutrient rich diet and a healthy weight bearing exercise regime, the number of people diagnosed with either osteopenia or osteoporosis continues to rise year after year. This is partly due to increases in population and increased life span leading to an ageing population. Additionally many people are ignorant that they may be at risk from the condition; indeed the osteoporosis condition is often referred to as the silent disease, as people may not be aware of the condition unless diagnosed by a doctor following a bone mineral density test, or worse still receiving some sort of fracture.
As mentioned above osteoporosis is defined as a lowering in bone mass and changes in bone structure that leads to a weakening of the bones. This may lead to fractures and have a severe impact upon a persons life. Some of the main areas that fractures occur in are the hips and spine; additionally many wrist fractures occur (these are mainly a result of people reaching out when trying to keep their balance following a fall). Although these are the three main areas of osteoporotic related fractures,it is possible for osteoporotic fractures to occur in all parts of the skeleton.
Nowadays it is easy and quick to measure the mineral density of bones, this is usually performed by using dual energy x-ray absorptiomety. This has enabled a criteria for the definition of osteoporosis and osteopenia. The bone mineral density of a person is compared to that of a mean young adult reference and given a value as a standard deviation from the norm. The result is normally a negative number because people lose bone mass with age, and except in exceptional circumstances will have a lower bone mineral density than a young adult. The following is an overview of the categorisation of osteoporosis (test results are often given as a T-score) :
1. Osteopenia: A standard deviation in bone mineral density of -1 to -2.5
2. Osteoporosis: A standard deviation of -2.5 or lower
3. Established Osteoporosis is defined as someone diagnosed with osteoporosis who has had a fracture due to the condition.
The test results of osteoporosis bone density testsa are often given as a T-score.