Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones. There is decrease in bone mass density (BMD) which increases the risk of fracture. The first-level of BMD loss is known as osteopenia which, if undetected and untreated, proceeds to osteoporosis. Although the term osteoporosis is synonymous with women above 50 years of age, it is now commonly seen in men and is known to strike at an alarmingly younger age. There is more to osteoporosis than just calcium deficiency. In women, oestrogen is important for BMD maintenance. Post-menopausal decrease in its level leads to accelerated BMD loss. Fast changing lifestyles, poor dietary habits and lack of exercise along with heredity are some of the contributing factors.
In 2008, an estimated 25 million Indians were affected by osteoporosis, mainly because of vitamin D deficiency caused by low exposure to sunlight and low dietary vitamin D.
Osteoporosis is often asymptomatic until a bone fractures. Some of the signs to look out for are swelling around a joint, joint pain, difficulty in sitting, walking or bending, change in one’s posture and fragility fracture (fracture after a minor fall). An X-ray and bone density measurement can confirm the diagnosis. Osteoporosis can be detected through an X-ray only after 30 percent of the bone calcium is already lost.
Osteoporosis prevention and treatment choices include lifestyle change, vitamin D-rich diet, adequate sunlight exposure, low salt and calcium intake, regular exercise (weight bearing) and maintaining healthy weight. Early detection and timely treatment can substantially decrease the risk of future fractures.
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