Gwyneth Paltrow – a famous American actress – was diagnosed with osteopenia, which is the precursor to osteoporosis at the age of 37. She was given the diagnosis after a bone scan was taken after she had suffered a leg fracture, revealing low bone density.
Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterised by compromised bone strength predisposing a person to an increased risk of fracture. This is a slow developing condition of bones, which has no symptoms until it is too late to treat, and in its latter stages, results in fractures of the hip bone, wrist or spinal bones. But the good news is that it can usually be prevented by lifelong lifestyle measures if you understand and implement them early enough.
Who is prone to it?
Certain categories of people are prone to develop osteoporosis. Risk factors include:
- Older age – bones stop growing in length between the ages of 16 and 18, but continue to increase in density until you are in your late 20s. From about the age of 35, you gradually lose bone density
- Being a female – women get osteoporosis more often than men. Women can lose up to 20% of their total bone mass in the first 5 – 7 years after menopause (when estrogen level begins to fall)
- Family history – according to a research, osteoporosis has a large genetic component
- Certain race/ethnicities – white and Asian women are at highest risk.
- Body size – small thin-boned women are at greater risk
- History of broken bones
- Hormones – low estrogen levels resulted from missing menstrual periods or to menopause can cause osteoporosis in women, while low testosterone levels can cause osteoporosis in men
- Low calcium and vitamin D intake
- Alcohol and caffeine can cause bone loss and fractures
- Certain medications and conditions – some drug therapies can also have a bad effect on bone, for example Prednisolone; and also some forms of chemotherapy for breast and prostate cancer can accelerate bone loss
- Inactive lifestyle. Physical inactivity or long-term bed rest can cause weak bones
- Certain diseases and conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases and eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia
- Smoking may also cause lower bone density and risk of fracture
When you should test?
Unfortunately, we cannot feel the moment when our bones start getting weaker. Sometimes people do not know that they have osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. But there are possible symptoms of the disorder:
- Loss of height and stooped posture
- Fractures of the hip, wrist, or spine
Therefore, it is highly recommended to test your bone density if you belong to a risk group. The test called “bone mineral density scan (BMD)” measures density in different parts of the body, most commonly the heel. Some doctors prefer a central DEXA scan (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) combined with laser technology. This test is very convenient: painless, accurate and requires no preparation from a patient. The result will show if a person has low bone density and is prone to osteoporosis in the future.
If you have osteoporosis, there are numerous drug therapies available to help strengthen the bones and decrease the risk of fracture. After assessing your bone mass density, your doctor will prescribe the correct course of treatment for you, and this may include calcium and vitamin D tablets, but they may be just part of your treatment.
The old saying, prevention is better than cure, is absolutely true for osteoporosis and it begins in early childhood.
A long healthy period between menses, (first period) and menopause is helpful but cannot always be controlled, we can also exercise, get little sun and healthy calcium-rich, balanced diet, avoid bad habits such as excessive smoking, alcohol and coffee, and go for regular check-ups. This will enable us to live the fullest quality lives we can.
If you cannot exercise due to pain, a chiropractor can help restore the correct movement to your spine and joints, thus allowing you to get moving again.
In fact, we often do and have some very gentle methods to use with anyone suffering from osteoporosis, and we are also well equipped to spot the likelihood of this being a part of your problem, send you for the right tests and diagnose or rule out osteoporosis.