Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know as You Age

“More than 70 percent of the population has not been screened, and does not know that they have osteoporosis”, says Dr. Sai Laxman Anne, Chief Consultant Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement Surgeon, KIMS Hospitals

Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle so that even bending forward and coughing may cause a fracture. Osteoporosis affects 1 in 3 people above the age of 50 years, 1 in 2 above the age of 65 years, and every one after 75 years of age. Therefore, Is osteoporosis a problem?

The current life expectancy at 67 years is expected to increase to 71 by 2025, and 77 by 2050. Therefore, while 10 percent of the population is above 50 years presently, 34 percent of the population will be within the same age bracket by 2050, resulting in a surge in the number of people affected by osteoporosis.

Even by the lowest estimates, about 1.5 million fractures happen annually, which is just the tip of the iceberg, suggest statistics from 5 metros and major cities in India.

 

Causes

  • Irregular, intermittent, and habitual low intake of calcium and vitamin D3, lack of exercise, and a high prevalence of diabetes.
  • Smoking, heavy drinking, steroid use, and hormonal imbalance.
  • Lifestyle changes and diet habits such as junk food, soft drinks, lack of sleep, and exercise, causes prevalent among younger adults.
  • The Covid 19 pandemic has disrupted continuity in routine among many people. Many choose to address this by sitting at home for entire days. The closing of parks and gyms due to pandemic has led many people to be deprived of sunlight and regular exercise.

Additionally, Steroid use, the mainstay of medicines to treat coronavirus patients, has led to an alarming rise in ‘silent osteoporotic fractures’ equivalent to ‘a skeletal heart attack’.

Prevention

  1. Ensuring a healthy diet that includes calcium and proteins, both important ingredients for bone health.  As one becomes older, the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals is reduced. Older adults thus suffer from malnutrition as they may not be eating enough or absorbing adequate nutrients from their diet. Additionally, the presence of comorbidities. In such times, Calcium and Vit D supplements should be taken regularly.
  2. Average young adults require about 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight daily. Vitamin D is also present in oily fish, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified dairy products and juices. For vegetarians, we generally advise weekly vitamin D supplements.
  3. Maintaining a healthy body weight. Both obesity, and being too thin may damage your bone health.
  4. Keep active. Do regular muscle strengthening and weight-bearing exercises. Participate in exercise activities that improve balance, posture, and coordination. Even in limited spaces, this can be done by spot marching and stretching.
  5. Avoid smoking and heavy drinking.
  6. Prevent falling by decluttering and avoiding water and oil spills on slippery floors.
  7. Finally, consult a doctor for bone and health assessment especially if the risk factors of osteoporosis have been identified.

Going forward

The prevailing global condition may take much longer than anticipated to resume normalcy. Therefore, it is wiser to preserve our bone health in as efficient a manner as possible.

Only a collective effort by the government, health care providers and media participation can spread awareness in combating this pandemic.

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