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You can prevent the onset of osteoporosis!

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : February 16, 2015 6:28 PM IST


October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day. The theme for this year is postmenopausal women and their bone health. We spoke to Dr Suraj Gurav, Consultant Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement Surgeon, Asian Hospitals (a unit of Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai) and asked him about osteoporosis and how postmenopausal women should take care of themselves in order to prevent the disease.

Why are postmenopausal more prone to osteoporosis?

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Until menopause women are protected by the naturally secreted hormone oestrogen, which helps in the deposition of calcium in bones. After menopause, the secretion of oestrogen stops or is greatly reduces and hence women at this age are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

Unfortunately osteoporosis is a silent disease and a person with osteoporosis could look perfectly healthy until he/she sustains a fracture. But some things that one can look out for is pain the joints, swelling around a joint, inability to perform certain daily functions like sitting, walking or bending and change in one's posture like gradual formation of a stoop all these indicate that there is something wrong in the person's bone and joints and it should be investigated immediately. A glaring indicator is suffering a fracture after a seemingly innocuous fall (a fall that shouldn't have led to a fracture normally). This type of fracture is also known as a fragility fracture. (Read: Osteoporosis: What you ought to know)

What can women do to protect themselves from the condition?

In most cases osteoporosis will eventually take hold, but there are certain things that women can start doing even before they hit menopause. They should have a diet rich in calcium like milk and milk products, vegetables, fruits, lean meats, fish and chicken. Exercise regularly especially weight bearing exercising like running, walking or aerobics. Another important component is to take regular calcium supplements, especially during pregnancy and when they are breastfeeding.

Once they have crossed menopause they should take calcium along with vitamin D. This is because postmenopausal women usually have a lower amount of vtamin D, and since vitamin D is the one component that helps the body assimilate calcium appropriately, it should be taken in conjunction.

Women should also avoid smoking and drinking large quantities of alcohol. Smoking has a very different and more drastic effect on their body. (Read: 10 reasons why women should quit smoking). When it comes to alcohol, the lesser the better, since it is known to cause osteoporosis. (Read: What alcohol does to your liver)

Along with all the lifestyle changes a DEXA scan at regular intervals is essential. Especially, for those women who are post menopausal and have had either a hysterectomy or have been on medication containing steroids for a long time. A DEXA scan is the gold standard to diagnose osteoporosis and if it shows the presence of osteoporosis one should immediately visit a doctor.

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