Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become brittle, which leads to a higher risk of breaking them. The condition arises when bones lose minerals, like calcium, faster than the body can replace them. Osteoporosis is often referred to as the “silent” disease, as it has no symptoms and is often not diagnosed until bones actually fracture or break. Genetics and bone size affect the development of osteoporosis, but it can be prevented or delayed through healthy living. Healthy habits can also reduce bone loss. Here’s what you need to know about osteoporosis and aging.
Why Does Aging Cause Osteoporosis?
Our bones are in a continuous state of renewal. The older we get, the more bone is resorbed as opposed to replaced. This causes our bones to thin and become more fragile over time. Women undergoing menopause, as well as men with a lower level of testosterone, are especially prone to this. This is because the hormones in our body – such as estrogen and testosterone – help with bone renewal. The lack of these hormones can thus heighten the risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen tends to decline in women around the age of 50 onwards, while testosterone starts to decrease in men around the age of 60. Osteoporosis caused for this reason is known as “primary osteoporosis.”
“Secondary osteoporosis”, meanwhile, happens as a result of another disease. Coeliac disease, for instance, is associated with the malabsorption of calcium, which can manifest in osteoporosis. Other causes of secondary osteoporosis can be an adverse reaction to therapy for another disease, brought on by medication.
Fractures and Falls
Osteoporosis leads to a compromise in bone structure, meaning that bones are more likely to break when you have this condition. Most fractures occur from falls from a standing height, with the exception of vertebral or spinal fractures, which can occur without a significant trigger.
Unfortunately, adults aged 50 and older are more prone to falls. This can be because of multiple reasons, such as vision impairment, reactions to medication, a loss of reflexes, a decline in strength and muscle mass, and more.
Preventing Osteoporosis, Preventing Falls
Preventing falls is thus essential in preventing fractures. Good balance and muscle strength are key in honing your reflexes so that you can “right” yourself quickly when you trip. Exercises such as Tai Chi can help you improve balance, while resistance and weight-bearing exercises can help with maintaining muscle mass.
A diet rich in calcium can also help fight osteoporosis – aim to consume at least three servings of dairy a day. Get enough Vitamin D in your bloodstream too, although be mindful about too much sun exposure. Vitamins are an essential part of our nutrition, especially as we age! To know more, you can read about recommended vitamins for those over 70.
Lastly, if you have a hereditary history of osteoporosis or bone fractures, or are otherwise concerned that you might be especially prone to this condition, it is always best to consult with a trusted doctor. For certain individuals, it might be best to get started on medication that can slow the rate of bone breakage during the aging process.