Osteoporosis is not a disease. It is a natural process in which the bones weaken, which makes them more porous and more susceptible to fractures. This process is often associated with ageing, but young children and adults as young as 50 can have osteoporosis problems.
One of the problems associated with osteoporosis is the decrease of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals in the body. There are several possible reasons for this change, but the two main ones are: a change in diet and taking medication. Another possible cause of osteoporosis is developing a sedentary lifestyle with age. The older one gets, the less likely one tends to remain active. The result being that the demands made on the bones are lowered, making them more fragile. Another factor is heredity. In which case there is not much that one can do. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a higher bone density. This density peaks between 35 and 40 years and declines by 1 to 2% on average per year. So if you are amongst the lucky ones, and if you have maintained an active lifestyle, then your bone mass should be higher than average. And its rate of decline should be less. Finally, women after menopause represent a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men of a similar age. And for the latter, the consequences are more severe. There are other factors, but these are the most common ones.
According to Canadian statistics, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men will have osteoporosis problems during their lifetime. In addition, 4 out of 10 women will have a fracture between the age of 50 and the end of their life due in part to osteoporosis. Fractures that are the most common are hip, wrist and spine fractures.
How do we diagnose osteoporosis?
There are three aspects in the diagnosis of osteoporosis; the visual aspect, the analysis of risk factors and the evaluation of bone mineral density by a densitometry test. The visual appearance may give a clue to the possible presence of osteoporosis. For example, an older person who is not standing straight or who is decreasing in height may be a clue. Also, a questionnaire identifying the risk factors (age, sex, ethnicity, family history, diet, nutritional deficiencies, lifestyle, sex hormones, hormonal diseases, body mass, etc…) can be given. Finally, if the presence of osteoporosis is presumed, a bone densitometry test may be prescribed. When we reach a -2.5 standard deviation from normal, it is considered to be osteoporosis. Between -2.5 and -1, it is osteopenia.
What is osteopenia?
It is the precursor to osteoporosis. It is a state between normal bone and osteoporosis. To have osteopenia, one must have less than 11% loss in their bone density. More than 11% decrease in bone density is osteoporosis. In recent years, the treatment plan for people with osteoporosis has focused more on preventing fractures rather than reducing osteoporosis. Many people over the age of 50 can show signs of osteoporosis without fractures, while others may show no signs of osteoporosis and still fracture themselves.
Therefore we must understand that the main problem is to do with fractures. Although the loss of bone density can cause problems, the impact of a fracture on a person’s lifestyle is much greater and can send the person into a vicious circle that will create a cascade of problems. A person without osteoporosis who gets injured becomes sedentary. This sedentarism activates a decrease in bone density which in turn reduces the amount of calcium in the body and so on. The other consequences associated with fractures are pain, loss of autonomy, and reduced quality of life. Finally, between 20-25% of people who have a hip fracture will die in the following year. This is something to think about.
So why should you consult your physiotherapist or osteopathy graduate? Because prevention is the best course of action. By doing an evaluation of your lifestyle, your practitioner may prescribe a physical activity program that will decrease the bone density loss in comparison to a sedentary individual. In addition, a consultation with our naturopath will help evaluate your mineral intake and see if there is a need to change your diet or to add supplements.Growing old should not be a problem, all we must do is to put life into our old age which will add years to our life. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us.