What exactly is osteoporosis, an how can one prevent it
Lack of exposure to sun and spending long hours in air-conditioned rooms which is a habit with most of us these days is having a peculiar side effect. Believe it or not, it is adding up to the cases of Osteopenia, a stage prior to osteoporosis, which may lead to the actual disease. According to information available, more than 50 million Indians are affected by osteoporosis every year.
Most of the people believe that osteoporosis is a disease of women and elderly. But it is not true. It can affect both men and women, and, at any age. Though it is true that women Osteoporosis patients are more as compared to men, but the disease doesn’t differentiate between the sex or age.
“Both women and men begin to lose bone mass in their mid-30s and are susceptible to it. Why women patients are more is because women also undergo menopause unlike men which leads to faster bone loss,” says Dr V P Singh, Consultant, Surgical Oncology, Institutes of Cancer, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi.
Singh informs that as a cancer specialist, he advises patients to undergo Dexa scans and it worries him when he sees the reports of these patients. “More and more number of patients are coming back with low Vitamin D levels, which means they are osteopenia and borderline osteoporosis cases,” he says.
“While it is true that not everyone who has osteopenia will develop osteoporosis, it is also true that people with ostopenia are at a greater risk of having osteoporosis in later life,” he adds. “It’s time people get careful and concerned about it; sadly most people don’t understand the severity of the situation,” he says.
Osteoporosis is a severe calcium deficiency and results in fragile bones which break easily; even in slight falls. Fractures of wrist, spine, shoulder and hips are very common in such patients. Though in initial stages an osteoporosis patient shows no symptom, backache and stooping comes up in advanced stages, when it can also cause disfigurement of the body (from fractures in the spine) and complete loss of mobility (in case the hip bone gets fractured).
What to do to prevent osteoporosis
Eat a diet rich in nutrients that help in building and maintaining healthy bones. One must take a diet rich in protein and calcium. And, once you turn 40 years of age, you must also start taking some calcium supplement. Doctors say all adults need 1000-1200 mg of Calcium daily.
Do strength training exercises regularly. A sedentary lifestyle adds to the weakening of bones. The more you exercise, more strong your bones will become.
Make a habit of climbing up and down through stairs instead of elevators and escalators to strengthen bones and improve bone mass.
Quit smoking and alcohol consumption as both these deplete the body minerals and increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Rule out Vitamin D deficiency by eating eggs, milk and oily fish regularly. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet, making bones, teeth and muscles strong.
Spend 10-15 minutes in sun every day. Encourage children to drink milk daily and play in the sun. Discourage them from sitting in dark air-conditioned rooms for long hours. This holds true for adults as well. Human skin can make large amounts of vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. In fact, our body is designed to get all the vitamin D it needs by producing it when the bare skin is exposed to sunlight.