World Osteoporosis Day takes place on 20th October every year. It was first observed by the UK’s National Osteoporosis Society in 1996. By 1998, it had been taken over by the International Osteoporosis Foundation and sponsored by the World Health Organisation. World Osteoporosis Day is now recognised in over 90 countries, and reaches an audience of 2 billion people. The aim of the day is to raise awareness and educate people about the realities of Osteoporosis. In this blog, we will look at what Osteoporosis is, who is at risk, and the symptoms associated with it.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease which causes the density and quality of our bones to diminish. If you picture a sponge, with millions of small holes running through it, you’ll get a pretty similar image to how healthy bones should look. Now imagine that all of those holes double in size, or more. That is what bones with osteoporosis look like. In fact, osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bone’. There is a lot more empty space, and the material left behind is much weaker and put under much more pressure. This makes them far more susceptible to fractures or breaks.
Osteoporosis can affect anyone, but there are a number of risk factors that make certain people more likely to develop it. Women are four times more likely than men to get osteoporosis, for example. This is partly because women typically have smaller, less-dense bones than men do, making it much easier for them to cross the threshold into low-density bones. Postmenopausal women are the most likely group to develop this condition.
Men and women under 30 are the least likely to develop osteoporosis, save for any exceptional medical circumstances. This is because our bone density peaks at around 30 years of age, at which point it starts to decline. Fortunately, exercise and diet can help stave the condition off even if you are in a high-risk group. Weight training can help increase density and strength, as can increasing your intake of calcium and vitamin D.
Genetics also play a role in the development of osteoporosis, although that does not necessarily mean that you will get it if your parents had it. It is believed that genetics does influence peak bone strength and density, so if a parent or grandparent had osteoporosis, you may have a bone density similar to the one they had at your age. This could make you more susceptible to Osteoporosis, but as diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices all play such an influential role, it is something that could be avoided or effectively approached if identified early.
Unfortunately, there are no easily identifiable symptoms for the early stages of osteoporosis, so if you think you may be at risk, it is important to visit a doctor for a checkup as soon as possible. As you get older, and Osteoporosis starts to take its toll, you may notice one of the following: loss of height, which occurs as a result of the bones shrinking; back pain, which could indicate a more serious problem, such as a fractured vertebra; hunching; and bones that fracture or break easily.
Osteoporosis is a common but serious condition that can greatly impact your quality of life and physical health. It is a condition that sets in slowly over the course of years, making it easy to miss but hard to undo. For these reasons, it is crucial to strike preemptively if you are to have the best chances of tackling it. If you believe you may be at risk of developing osteoporosis, visit your doctor so you can start working towards healthier bones as soon as possible.
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