Osteoporosis is very common. Although many of us have heard the term, how much do you really know about this “silent” disease? November is Osteoporosis Month, so what better time to learn more about this disease and what it might mean for your health.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis, a word that means “porous bone,” is a disease that causes a person’s bones to become weak and brittle. Depending on factors such as diet and exercise, the progression can be slow or quick. When someone has osteoporosis, minor falls or even mild stress on the bones can cause bones to fracture. The most common areas to experience these fractures or breaks are wrists, hips and the spine.
What you may not know is that bones are actually a living part of your body: they grow, change, and when they break, they regenerate themselves. For the most part, our bodies will regenerate our bones at the same rate as bone loss, so most people will never notice that their bones are constantly being broken down and replaced. However, with osteoporosis, the bones in your body are just not regenerating at the same rate of bone loss, so it makes the bones far more brittle and therefore prone to breaking.
Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races; however, Asian and white women who are post-menopause are usually the most at risk for developing it.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
Unfortunately, when bone loss starts to happen, there are usually no obvious symptoms, and it can be very difficult to realize that something is off. However, once the disease starts to progress, some symptoms start to become more apparent like
- Losing height over time
- Back pain (which could actually be caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra)
- A posture that appears to be “stooped”
- A break in a bone from an incident that shouldn’t cause a break
When should you see a doctor?
If you went through early menopause or used corticosteroids for a period of a few consecutive months, you may want to consider having a conversation with your doctor to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis. Additionally, if you or your loved ones had a hip break or hip fracture, it is always a good idea to have a bone density check to see if osteoporosis was a contributing factor.
Some of us are at a higher risk for osteoporosis than others, and sometimes those factors are really beyond our control. For example, women are much more likely than men to develop the disease, and the risk increases with age. Additionally, family history and the body’s frame size can play a factor. Having a history of osteoporosis in the family would mean a heightened risk for developing osteoporosis. While being of smaller frame size is associated with a higher risk of the disease because there is less bone mass to draw from initially.
Is there any way you can prevent osteoporosis from happening? Unfortunately, not yet. But the good news is that there are a few things you can do to help slow down the onset of the symptoms or make them less severe. Regular exercise – including weight-bearing exercises – and a healthy diet can go a long way in slowing down bone density loss.
If you are concerned about the risks of osteoporosis, it is always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor. They can check your overall physical health and determine if other medical procedures – like a bone density scan – may be necessary to monitor your health.
Contact VERA Home Care today
Those living with advanced osteoporosis may benefit from having the assistance and support of a caregiver. If you or someone you love has osteoporosis and would like to learn more about what support is available, contact VERA Home Care today!