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Home >> Osteoporosis  


Osteoporosis, the disease that involves a loss of bone mass so that fractures occur after minimal trauma or injury, can be a devastating, painful experience for older people. Everyone loses some bone with age. That is a normal process, and if your bones are in good shape to start with, it should not cause you any harm. But for people with osteoporosis, bones thin at a faster pace, becoming porous and brittle — and breaking with ease. A man's confident stride turns into a tentative shuffle. He is afraid that a fall or slip could lead to a painful fracture. Osteoporosis strikes four women in comparison to every man.
Approximately, 10 percent of all men are affected. In part, this disease is linked to lifestyle factors. Shortage of calcium and vitamin D cause osteoporosis.

High risk factors for osteoporosis:

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  1. Aging
  2. Female sex
  3. Light body build
  4. Thinness
  5. Fair complexion
  6. Inadequate calcium intake
  7. Early menopause
  8. Premenopausal oophrectomy
  9. No exercise
  10. Little work activity
  11. Extreme immobility
  12. Cigarette smoking
  13. Significant to heavy alcohol intake
  14. Prolonged cortisone-type drug use
  15. Family history of osteoporosis

Low risk factors for osteoporosis:

  1. Male gender
  2. Muscular body build
  3. Some degree of overweight or obesity
  4. Black ethnic background
  5. Menopause estrogen use for women
  6. Good lifetime calcium intake
  7. Regular exercise programme, with emphasis on weight-bearing or gravity involving activity
  8. Muscle-using work
  9. Non-smoker

The good news is that the right exercise and diet choices can put a check on osteoporosis. And even if you are getting a late start, you can take steps to halt further bone loss at any age. Here is how to beef up your bones.

Bear down on exercise. It not only increases bone density but also improves your agility and reflexes, so that you are less likely to fall and break a bone. But to prevent osteoporosis, you need workouts in which you are truly bearing your weight on your bones. Exercises such as brisk walking or running actually stimulate bone cells to build more bone, particularly in your back and hips, where you most need it. Pumping iron is also an ideal way to build bone strength, because it increases the weight of gravity on your bones. It is good sense to make weightlifting part of your weight-bearing exercise. Any lifting done in a standing position is particularly helpful for the spine and hips. If you have never used weights before, be sure to get your doctor's clearance.

Pump up your calcium. Calcium is essential for healthy bones. Ninety nine percent of the calcium in your body is stored in your bones. If you do not get enough calcium, you cannot make enough bone — it is as simple as that. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that men take 1000 mg of calcium a day.

Ounce for ounce, milk and milk products are the best sources of dietary calcium. One eight-ounce serving of non-fat yoghurt provides around 450 mg. of calcium. A cup of skimmed milk boasts about 300 mg. Many other foods contain calcium, but the nutrient is not as easily absorbed from these foods as it is from dairy products.

Be selective about supplements: If men are physically active, non-smoking and non-drinking and eat a regular balanced diet that includes dairy products, there is no need for calcium supplements.
Do not do without vitamin D. Bones do not obtain enough calcium for proper mineralization unless the body has adequate amount of vitamin D. Without vitamin D, your body absorbs about 10 percent of calcium it takes in; with vitamin D, it can absorb 80 to 90 percent. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D is 5 micrograms, or 200 IU — easily found in fortified foods such as milk, breads and cereals. Besides getting some of your daily vitamin D through food, your body can make it through sunshine, which triggers a vitamin D manufacturing process in your skin. Five to fifteen minutes of bright sunshine every day — before you apply sunscreen — will supply your needs of vitamin D.

Check your medicine chest. Certain medications-thyroid medications, anti-inflammatory steroids such as hydrocortisone, cortisone, prednisone, anticonvulsants such as phenytoin, depressants such as phenobarbital and the diuretic furosemide can cause osteoporosis, particularly when they are taken regularly in high doses over a number of years. Thyroid medicine in normal doses should pose no problem, and the risk from diuretics can be offset by taking calcium. The most serious osteoporosis risk is from steroids. If you need long-term steroid medication, your doctor may advise anti-osteoporosis drugs such as calcitonin (cibacalcin) in addition to calcium and vitamin D supplements.

Go easy on the booze. Alcohol actually poisons the cells that build bone. A beer or a glass of wine now and then probably will not cause you much harm. But avoid drinking in excess — more than two to three drinks a day.

Quit smoking. Osteoporosis risk doubles in men who smoke cigarettes. Smokers tend to be thinner, and thinner people are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Researchers also theorize that the hormone testosterone may protect men from osteoporosis, just as estrogen protects women, and that male smokers lose more testosterone as they age than non-smokers do. So do your bones a favour and give up smoking. If you need help, talk to your doctor.

Estrogen and osteoporosis. Estrogen (and progesterone) treatment is the only well-established measure that reduces the frequency of fractures due to osteoporosis. A further favourable side effect of this might be the reduction in heart disease.

Treatment should be started as soon as possible after menopause. Appropriate duration of estrogen treatment is unknown, but a minimum of ten years seems reasonable. Dietary calcium does not substitute for estrogen in preventing post-menopausal bone loss. Patients must also be aware of possible side effects. For example, estrogen use has been associated in some cases with increased gall bladder disease and cancer of the lining of the uterus. Post-menopausal women can add significantly to their bone mineral content by exercise, but this increase in density reverses when exercise stops.

Some women should exercise caution before using estrogen therapy if they have the following conditions: high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, liver disease, thrombophlebitis, seizure disorders, migraine headaches, history of cancer or gall bladder disease.


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