Hyderabad: Osteoporosis, a silent but significant health issue, is on the rise, affecting millions worldwide, with potentially devastating consequences for bone health.
Osteoporosis, often referred to as the “silent thief of bones,” has become a major global health problem. This condition silently and gradually robs individuals of their bone density over time, without any overt symptoms, until the day a fracture occurs.
The Quiet Onset
Osteoporosis is characterized by the gradual loss of bone mass and strength, making bones fragile and prone to fractures, particularly in areas like the hip, spine, and wrist. This silent disease can lead to pain, functional limitations, reduced quality of life, and a loss of independence, as individuals struggle to perform daily tasks. In some cases, fractures may go unnoticed, significantly increasing the risk of mortality.
The Scale of the Problem
Osteoporosis is not a local issue but a worldwide epidemic. In those over the age of 50, one in three women and one in five men will develop osteoporosis. A staggering 80% of those affected are women. The United States, Europe, and Japan collectively account for 75 million individuals suffering from this condition, resulting in 1.3 million fractures each year. Shockingly, approximately one in two women and one in four men over the age of 50 will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
A Global Challenge
While the peak incidence of osteoporosis typically occurs between the ages of 60 to 70 in Western countries, in India, it strikes earlier, affecting those aged 50 to 60. In India alone, it is estimated that more than 61 million people have osteoporosis, with women constituting 61% of these cases.
Understanding the Risk Factors
Various factors contribute to the development of osteoporosis, making it crucial to identify those at risk. These risk factors include older age, a family history of osteoporosis, low body weight (less than 58 kg), estrogen deficiency, early menopause (before the age of 45), lifestyle choices like alcoholism and smoking, poor health, low calcium and vitamin D intake, excessive consumption of protein, salt, and caffeine, a sedentary lifestyle, and the use of certain medications, including some cancer drugs and steroids.
A Special Focus on Women
In women, the onset of menopause, typically occurring in the mid-forties or fifties, leads to a significant decrease in estrogen levels. This hormonal shift results in excessive bone loss, which isn’t adequately compensated by bone formation. As a result, bones affected by osteoporosis become exceptionally fragile, often leading to fractures from minor incidents such as falls, bending, lifting, or even coughing. Hip fractures, characterized by severe pain and the inability to walk without support, and spine fractures, indicated by severe back pain, loss of height, or posture deformations, are common consequences of this disease.
Preventing and managing osteoporosis involves a multifaceted approach. Dietary changes, including a well-balanced diet with sufficient calcium and vitamin D, are essential. Individuals over the age of 60 are recommended to have a daily intake of at least 600 IU of vitamin D (up to 1000 IU/day) in addition to 1200 mg of calcium. Dairy products, fortified juices, and certain foods like fatty fish, eggs, and mushrooms can help meet these requirements.
Physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining bone strength, with weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises enhancing bone health by 30% to 50%. Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol and caffeine intake, and ensuring adequate sun exposure, also contribute to osteoporosis prevention.
Reducing the risk of fractures further involves measures like avoiding sedating medications, eliminating household hazards, maintaining good vision, wearing appropriate footwear, and avoiding walking alone on slippery floors.
Osteoporosis may be silent, but its impact is deafening. With millions affected worldwide, understanding the risk factors, making lifestyle changes, and seeking early diagnosis and treatment can help combat this growing health concern. Don’t let the silent bone thief steal your quality of life; take action today.