Osteoporosis affects more than 3 million people per year in the U.S. However, it’s often referred to as a “silent disease,” because you may not recognize the symptoms until they become severe. Here’s a look at what osteoporosis is, its signs and symptoms and common treatments.
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bone structure to the point that bones can be easily fractured or broken. Hips, wrists and spines are typically the most affected areas of the body. This disease is most common in people age 50 and older, particularly in women.
Usually around the age of 30, your bone mass stops increasing and your body’s process of replacing old bone tissue gradually slows. The risk of developing osteoporosis increases as you enter your 50s and continues to increase in later years.
The effects of osteoporosis can be painful and potentially dangerous, and they can also lower your quality of life. Broken bones can result in severe pain and loss of mobility. And untreated symptoms can make it hard to move around as well or enjoy your day.
In severe cases, bones may become so fragile that the smallest stresses can result in fractures. Something as minor as a small fall, bending over or even coughing can leave someone with severe osteoporosis in pain and possibly even immobile.
There’s no one sole cause of osteoporosis. If your family has a history of it, you may have a genetic predisposition for developing it. Additionally, some other conditions can increase someone's risk for developing osteoporosis, including:
• kidney disease
• lack of exercise
• a low calcium diet
• chemotherapy drugs
Men who have experienced decreased testosterone and women who have had their ovaries surgically removed or who have experienced post-menopausal bone loss are also statistically more at risk for developing osteoporosis.
There are hardly ever noticeable signs of the disease in the first stages of its development (known as osteopenia). It’s not unusual for it to go unnoticed for years, or even decades. In fact, most people are diagnosed after they’ve already had an accident and broken a bone. There are, however, a few tells that osteoporosis may be a developing issue for you, including:
• stooped posture, decreased height or changes in spine curvature
• repeated spine fractures leading to chronic lower back pain
• a hip that easily fractures after a minor slip or fall and heals very slowly
• muscle weakness, aches and cramps
• receding gums
• weak, brittle fingernails
• decreased grip strength
There are some risk factors of osteoporosis that can be controlled. Not smoking can often help prevent unnecessary bone loss. Implementing regular exercise routines and a balanced diet with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D is often essential to bone health. Here are some essential foods to consider incorporating into your diet on a regular basis to help support bone health:
• Prunes. Prunes have a high concentration of polyphenols, which can help reduce bone deterioration and loss.
• Apples. Apples also have unique antioxidants and polyphenols that can help strengthen your bones. One chemical found in apples called phloridzin may help postmenopausal women by improving inflammation markers, thus increasing bone density. Apples are also rich in boron, a trace mineral that can help the body retain calcium.
• Coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil can reduce the effects of estrogen deficiency, including bone density loss. Using it in your cooking may be beneficial to bone health.
• Almond milk. Almond milk contains good amounts of calcium, magnesium and potassium, all minerals known to positively impact bone health.
• Sesame seeds. Chewing a handful of sesame seeds every morning can help you get copper, zinc, vitamins D and K and magnesium. You can also use sesame seeds in cooking and baking recipes or, for added calcium too, mix a teaspoon of roasted and ground seeds into a glass of warm milk to drink.
• Fish oil. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 essential fatty acids and vitamin D. Taking 1,000 milligrams once daily with a meal can help you get a full daily allowance of these critical vitamins and minerals.
• Pineapple. Pineapple and pineapple juice contain manganese, which is directly linked to bone formation and preservation.
• Coriander. Coriander leaves and seeds are rich in vitamins and minerals valuable to maintaining good bone health. You might mix two teaspoons of coriander seeds into a cup of hot water and cover and steep it for 5 to 10 minutes before straining and adding honey. This creates a tea that might help you get some vitamins needed for bone health.
Some cases of osteoporosis may require medication in addition to lifestyle changes. Bisphosphonates are typically the most effective form of medicinal treatment for this condition. These medications come in several forms, often as either a weekly or monthly pill.
If you're worried about your bone health or think you may be dealing with osteoporosis, reach out to your healthcare provider. And remember that residents of Bethesda Gardens assisted living community in Frisco have access to a variety of wellness amenities designed to support healthy, vibrant lifestyles. That includes healthy meals, nutritional support and help managing chronic conditions like osteoporosis.