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Osteoporosis

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a medical condition characterized by weakening of the bones, leading to increased bone fragility and susceptibility to fractures. It occurs when the rate of bone loss exceeds the rate of bone formation, resulting in decreased bone density and deterioration of bone structure. Bone is a living tissue that undergoes constant remodeling, with old bone being removed and replaced by new bone. In individuals with osteoporosis, this balance is disrupted, leading to a decrease in bone mass and an increased risk of fractures, particularly in the spine, hips, wrists, and other weight-bearing bones.

Risk factors

  • Age: The risk of osteoporosis increases with age, as bone density naturally decreases and bone turnover slows down over time.

  • Gender: Women are at higher risk of osteoporosis than men, especially after menopause, due to hormonal changes that affect bone density.

  • Hormonal factors: Low levels of estrogen in women and testosterone in men can contribute to bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

  • Family history: Individuals with a family history of osteoporosis or fractures may be at increased risk of developing the condition themselves.

  • Nutritional factors: Inadequate intake of calcium and vitamin D, essential nutrients for bone health, can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

  • Lifestyle factors: Factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, and certain medications (e.g., corticosteroids) can increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Symptoms

Osteoporosis is often referred to as the "silent disease" because it typically does not cause noticeable symptoms until a fracture occurs. Common symptoms of osteoporotic fractures may include:

  • sudden back pain

  • loss of height over time

  • stooped posture (kyphosis)

  • fractures that occur with minimal trauma or pressure.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of osteoporosis is typically made through bone density testing, such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scans, which measure bone mineral density and assess fracture risk.

Treatment options

Treatment and management of osteoporosis aim to slow down bone loss, increase bone density, prevent fractures, and improve overall bone health. This may involve lifestyle modifications (e.g., dietary changes, weight-bearing exercises, smoking cessation), supplementation with calcium and vitamin D, medications to reduce bone loss (e.g., bisphosphonates, hormone replacement therapy), and fall prevention strategies.

 

Preventive measures such as regular weight-bearing exercise, maintaining a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and preventing falls can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and promote bone health throughout life.

Can exercise help?

Exercise can be highly beneficial for individuals with osteoporosis by:

  1. Strengthens bones: Weight-bearing and resistance exercises stimulate bone formation and increase bone density, reducing the risk of fractures

  2. Improves balance: Exercises that focus on balance can help improve balance, reducing the risk of falls and fractures, which are common complications of osteoporosis.

  3. Builds muscle strength: Strengthening exercises target the muscles surrounding the bones, providing added support and protection to the skeletal system. Strong muscles can help absorb shock and reduce the impact on bones during daily activities.

  4. Boosts confidence: Regular exercise can improve overall physical fitness and confidence in one's ability to move safely, reducing fear of falling and promoting independence. 

  5. Promotes overall health: Exercise has numerous health benefits beyond bone health, including cardiovascular fitness, weight management, and mental well-being, all of which contribute to overall health and quality of life.

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