Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones characterized by a decrease in bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine and wrist.

The word "osteoporosis" literally means "porous bones." Osteoporosis (pronounced OSS-tee-o-puh-RO-sis) occurs when bones begin to lose some of their essential elements. The most important of these elements is calcium. Over time, bone mass decreases. As a result, bones lose their strength, become fragile, and break easily. In extreme cases, even a sneeze or a sudden movement may be enough to break a bone.

Osteoporosis affects millions of older adults, usually striking after 60. Although it is most commonly found in women, it is not unheard of in men. Osteoporosis can be very far along before it became noticeable. Sometimes the first sign is a broken bone in the hip, spine, or wrist after a bump or fall. As the disease gets worse, other signs may appear such as pain in the back and ultimately, a curved backbone.

Causes of Osteoporosis

The average rate of bone loss in men, and in women who have not reached menopause, is actually quite small. However, after menopause, the bone loss in women accelerates to an average of one to two percent a year. It is after menopause that the level of the female hormone estrogen in a woman’s body decreases sharply. Estrogen is a hormone that is important in protecting the skeleton by helping the body’s bone forming cells to keep working. So after menopause, this protection can be considered lost as the level of estrogen decreases.

Other causes of osteoporosis are heredity and lifestyle. Whites and Asians, tall and thin women and those with a history of osteoporosis are those at the highest risk of getting osteoporosis. The behavioral causes of increasing the risk of osteoporosis are smoking, alcohol abuse, prolonged inactivity and a diet low in calcium.

Symptoms and Treatment

Usually, osteoporosis does not cause any symptoms at first. Osteoporosis is often called the "silent" disease, because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People often don't know they have the disease until a bone breaks, frequently in a minor fall that wouldn't normally cause a fracture. Many people confuse osteoporosis with arthritis
and believe they can wait for symptoms such as swelling and joint pain to occur before seeing a doctor. It should be stressed that the mechanisms

Treatment for osteoporosis includes eating a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting regular exercise, and taking medication to reduce bone loss and increase bone thickness. It's important to take calcium and vitamin D supplements along with any medicines you take for osteoporosis. Even small changes in diet, exercise, and medicine can help prevent spine and hip fractures. Adults who adopt healthy habits can slow the progress of osteoporosis.

Think calcium, eat calcium. Learn to love tofu, tinned sardines and salmon and dark green leafy vegetables. Dairy produce and calcium enhanced foods are good calcium replenishments for bone.

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