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    Osteoporosis - the silent disease

    As mentioned in other parts of the site osteoporosis is a progressive disease of the bone People with the condition have a decreased bone mineral density of their bones which results in an increased likelihood of bone fractures. These fractures usually occur at places of greatest stress such as the hips and spine, or places such as the wrists, which often break when people try break a fall.

    There are two major stages of bone deterioration

    1. Osteopenia: defined by a BMD of between -1 and -2.5; people with this condition have weakened soft bones.
    2. Osteoporosis: BMD less than -2.5
         1. Primary osteoporosis: Mainly due to aging and the post menopause
         2. Secondary osteoporosis: loss of bone through medical conditions, medications or nutrition

    Osteoporosis is a silent disease

    One of the problems of the osteoporosis disease is that it is a silent disease, most people who have osteopenia or osteoporosis do not realise that they have the condition until they have been diagnosed with the condition. This is unfortunately as much research has shown that by taking weight bearing exercises, such as walking and Tai Chi, with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, can dramatically lower the risk of becoming osteoporotic.

    As many women (and to a lesser extent men) don't find out about their condition until a late stage, they often do not know that lifestyle changes can make such a drastic difference to their bone health. Additionally, by the stage that they realise they have a condition, they may need to have medical treatment.

    The risk of osteoporosis is race dependent; it is estimated that 20% of white women over the age of 50 and 5% of black women have osteoporosis. Another 35% have low bone mass.
    For men 7% of white men over the age of 50 have osteoporosis, whereas 4% of black men of the same age do.

    With an estimated 44 million osteoporotic women in the USA alone, this places a large financial burden on many countries health systems. For example in the USA the cost of a osteoporosis related fractures is estimated at $18 billion a year. With an aging population it is thought that the number of people and the associated costs of the condition will increased dramatically in the coming years.

    Osteoporosis affects peoples lifestyles

    The risks that are caused by the thinning of bones often have dramatic consequences often leading to a loss in the quality of ones life. For example, 40% of people who suffer from hip fractures are unable to perform their normal daily tasks, and 25% may require care in a nursing home.

    In addition to fractures there are many other symptoms that may result from weakened bones. these include:

    1. Loss of height
    2. Back pain
    3. Kyphosis: leading to respiration and gastrointestinal problems.

    As is mentioned in other parts of the site genetics has a major role to play in bone mass, with different people reaching higher peak bone mass than others (bone mass peaks in the third decade of life). regardless of the genetics (which may be advantageous to some), it is lifestyle factors, such as exercise and diet that have the biggest impact on bone quality. The lifestyle changes required to improve bone health are low cost and relatively easy (eg. going for a daily walk, eating calcium containing foods such as cheese, and getting plenty of vitamin D from the sun (or supplements if required).

    References


    Osteoporosis disease statistics: fast facts.
    Mayes (2007) Review of post menopausal osteoporosis pharmacology. Nutr. Clin. Prac. 22:3: 276 to 285
    National Osteoporosis Foundation. (2003). Guide to Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis.