The Symptoms of Osteoporosis
About 10% of women over the age of 60 have osteoporosis. For women, this number increases substantially with age. In fact, osteoporosis affects 75% of women over the age of 90. Here we look at what the symptoms of osteoporosis are.
The Symptoms of Osteoporosis and What It Is
Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become brittle and weak. This happens due to the body’s inability to create new bone as quickly as old bone deteriorates. Because of this, your bones become weaker and consequently, you become more susceptible to fractures. Surprisingly, even coughing can break a bone in individuals with severe osteoporosis. Despite this, the symptoms of osteoporosis tend to be mild, so people may not know they have it until they experience a fracture.
What Causes the Symptoms of Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis can affect men and women. However, post-menopausal women have an increased risk. This is frequently due to lower hormone levels that happen after menopause.
Usually, the body is efficient when it comes to replacing old bone. Your body is constantly regenerating new cells and the bones are no exception. When you are young and healthy, your bone mass steadily increases. Yet, after maturity, the bone-replacing process gradually slows. Most individuals reach the height of their bone mass around the age of 30. After age 30, bone is lost at a faster rate than it is replaced. Ultimately, the peak bone mass you achieve before this determines your likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
Generally, peak bone mass is determined by your genetics. However, strength training has been shown to help improve overall bone mass. Lifestyle choices, such as activity level, smoking and alcohol consumption, can determine whether or not you end up with osteoporosis. Either way, if you have a family member who has osteoporosis, you are also at a greater risk for this condition. Individuals of Caucasian or Asian descent or those who have smaller body frames also have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Other causes of osteoporosis include thyroid issues or other gland problems. If you have too much of the thyroid hormone, it may result in bone loss. Overactive parathyroid and adrenal glands have further been thought to cause osteoporosis.
People at Risk for Developing Osteoporosis
Dietary issues and certain medications or certain medical conditions can lead to osteoporosis. These include:
- A low calcium intake.
- Individuals with eating disorders.
- Individuals who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery.
- People who take seizure medication and cancer medication.
- People who have cancer, celiac disease, kidney disease, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
What Are the Symptoms?
Early on, you will not have any symptoms. In the beginning, bone loss is hard to detect. As your condition progresses, here are the symptoms of osteoporosis you may experience:
- Decreased height.
- Hunched or bad posture.
- Bone fractures.
- Back pain.
- Receding gums.
- Weak grip strength.
- Brittle fingernails.
How to Treat Osteoporosis
The diagnosis of osteoporosis involves bone density measurements. Usually, the hip or spine of the patient is measured. This is often completed by a low-level X-ray machine. The results tell your doctor or your specialist the amount of minerals in your bones. It’s a non-invasive and quick test. Once diagnosed, treatment is determined based on the severity of your osteoporosis and your current health status.
Treatment may include medication if you are at risk of breaking bones. Medications that your doctor may prescribe include bisphosphonates, denosumab, hormone therapy, or other bone-building medications. Ultimately, it depends on the cause of your osteoporosis and your health, as to what type of medication is deemed best.
Lifestyle changes are also advised. If you are a smoker, you will likely be urged to quit. Your doctor will also tell you to cut back on any alcohol consumption. You’ll also be educated on how to avoid falls, such as not wearing high heels, practicing balance exercises and using non-slip shoes or surfaces.
Your doctor may further recommend vitamin D supplements or a higher calcium intake. Strength training also prevents bone loss. As such, you may be referred to a personal trainer or physical therapist. They can help develop a program suited to you, your activity level and your health.
Other recommended vitamins and minerals include:
- Vitamin K.
- Herbal supplements.
Alongside vitamin D and calcium, these vitamins and minerals will help make sure you have optimal bone health.
Foods That Worsen Osteoporosis
There are certain foods and dietary habits that can potentially worsen osteoporosis or contribute to bone loss. Here are some examples:
- Excessive sodium intake: Consuming high amounts of sodium can increase calcium excretion through urine, potentially leading to bone loss. Limit your intake of processed and packaged foods, as they often contain high levels of sodium.
- Carbonated beverages: Colas and other carbonated beverages may interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss. Additionally, some studies suggest that excessive consumption of phosphoric acid found in some sodas can negatively affect bone health.
- Excess caffeine: While the research on caffeine's impact on bone health is not entirely conclusive, some studies suggest that excessive caffeine intake may lead to increased calcium excretion. It's advisable to moderate your consumption of caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea and energy drinks.
Home Remedies to Help Manage Osteoporosis
While osteoporosis is a medical condition that typically requires professional treatment and management, there are some home remedies and lifestyle changes that can support overall bone health and help manage osteoporosis. Here are some suggestions:
- Calcium-rich diet: Ensure you consume an adequate amount of calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, leafy greens (like kale and spinach), tofu, almonds, and sardines. Calcium is crucial for maintaining strong bones.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Spend some time in sunlight to stimulate natural vitamin D production, and consider taking a vitamin D supplement if your levels are low (consult with a healthcare professional for appropriate dosage).
- Regular exercise: Engage in weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, dancing or weightlifting to promote bone density and strength. Consult with a healthcare professional to develop an exercise plan suitable for your condition.
How to Prevent Osteoporosis
If you think you may be at risk for developing osteoporosis, assess your lifestyle and see if you have the symptoms of osteoporosis. What changes can you make? Do you consume enough calcium and other vitamins and minerals? Do you strength train to slow down bone loss? Do you smoke? Are you a frequent drinker?
These are all aspects you want to consider. Gradually, aim to make changes where necessary. Take it one step at a time. Strive to be better each day. It will matter later down the road and it will prevent future pain without the fear or discomfort that can be associated with osteoporosis.