While doing her daily chores, my mother fell. It was a minor fall but her foot looked swollen; so we took her to the doctor. She had fractured her foot at three places. Something was not right. How could a simple fall cause three fractures? Her doctor immediately ordered a bone density test. The test confirmed my fear…she was diagnosed with osteoporosis. I had been bugging her to get herself checked, but like any other mother her own health is on the bottom of her priority list.
So what is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone. The bones become weak and can fracture even with a minor fall. Osteoporosis really means ‘porous bone’. It can be caused by many reasons.
Osteoporosis in women is common after menopause and is called Primary Type 1 or Post Menopausal Osteoporosis. Primary Type 2 osteoporosis appears after the age of 75, equally in men and women. Finally, Secondary Osteoporosis can occur at any age as a result of some medical problems and medications. I mainly want to focus on post menopausal osteoporosis in this article.
Our body has two sets of cells. One removes the old bone and other helps to rebuild the new bone. This keeps the bones strong and healthy. In early life, more bone is formed than lost. The maximum bone density is reached at around 30 years of age. After that, more bone is lost than rebuilt. In women, the drop of estrogen after menopause makes this process worse and drastically increases the rate of bone loss. This causes the bone to get weaker and weaker.
A frightening thing about osteoporosis is that it can creep on you slowly. It usually doesn’t get diagnosed until a fracture occurs, my mother being an excellent example. Under a microscope, parts of healthy bone look like a honeycomb. In osteoporosis, these holes and spaces are much bigger indicating that the bone has lost density or mass. The decrease in density makes bones weak and vulnerable to trauma. The bone can become so weak that minor injury can cause a fracture. The hip, spine, and the wrists are the most common areas of where a fracture will more likely occur. Many times, these fractures will compromise the quality of your life, especially hip and spine fractures. Micro fractures in the spine may lead to a decrease in height or a hunched back.
Decrease in bone density is inevitable in women after menopause, However, the good news is that early diagnosis and preventive measures can control the damage. Every woman needs to take calcium and vitamin D supplements, unless you have a health issue that contraindicates taking calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is the building block for bone and vitamin D helps absorb calcium. This will aid you in rebuilding new bone.
A bone density test should be a routine once a women hits menopause or the age of 50. You don’t have to let it come to a point where a fracture will lead to the diagnosis. Why wait so long? If you are a woman over 50 reading this article, get yourself checked.
Remember, hip or spine fractures can leave you bed-ridden. It will compromise the quality of your life. Prevention is better than a cure. Here are a few things that help osteoporosis patients and patients who may be at a risk of getting it:
-Regular intake of calcium and vitamin D supplement
-Avoiding falls if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis by making your house safe
If you do get diagnosed with osteoporosis there are a lot of treatment options available. Your doctor will decide the line of treatment. Take care of your health; it is the most important thing in life.
(This article is not intended to treat or diagnose osteoporosis but to help women identify the disease and the risks that come with it.)