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Osteoporosis

The Health Index

Osteoporosis (bone loss) is one of the most widespread diseases; millions of people suffer from it worldwide, especially older women. In those affected, the bone substance is increasingly broken down.  As a result, bones become increasingly unstable and brittle.

Our bones are constantly being remodelled to adapt to changing requirements. Typically, until the age of approximately 35,  more bone mass is built than is lost. From the age of 35 onwards, however, bone loss gradually predominates and then accelerates with advancing age. Even healthy older people lose about 0.5 to 1 per cent of their bone mass per year.

 

Women are twice as likely than men to develop osteoporosis. This normal bone metabolism can be disturbed by various influences. For example, a lack of calcium,  physical inactivity and hormone-related diseases can inhibit bone formation and/or promote bone resorption.  As a result, bone mass dwindles and osteoporosis develops. In extreme cases, patients can lose up to six per cent of their bone mass per year.  Obviously, broken bones significantly reduce one's everyday quality of life.

 

After a fracture of the neck, of the femur, or a fractured vertebra due to osteoporosis, people affected, especially older people, are often left bedridden. The lack of activity further weakens the bone system. With the number and severity of more or less spontaneously occurring vertebral body fractures, the risk of further bone fractures increases significantly, especially in the first year.  Bone fractures can shorten one's life span, and the risk of mortality is highest in the first year after a fracture.

What are the causes?

Various risk factors contribute to osteoporosis and related fractures. These include general factors that cannot be influenced, such as age, gender or genetic predisposition, as well as factors that can be influenced such as smoking, malnutrition, inactivity, and being underweight.  Some diseases can cause osteoporosis (secondary form) or aggravate primary osteoporosis.

 

Secondary osteoporosis can occur in younger patients, well before the typical osteoporosis age, and can lead to bone fractures. Often, hormonal and metabolic diseases such as hyperthyroidism (even when taking thyroid hormone) or diabetes mellitus, especially type 1 diabetes,  are the underlying cause.  Less often, Cushing's syndrome (an excess of cortisol in the body), primary hyperparathyroidism, or growth hormone deficiency leads to osteoporosis.

 

Certain kidney or gastrointestinal diseases can disturb the protein, mineral, and vitamin balance and thus also trigger osteoporosis.  Chronic inflammatory rheumatoid joint diseases, especially rheumatoid arthritis, often contribute to the development of osteoporosis.

What are the symptoms?

Some affected people suffer from back pain, which can be the result of micro-fractures. Others might report a feeling of weakness in the back. However, there are no clear warning signs. Osteoporosis often comes to light through a fracture, typically from a disproportionate cause: a fall from a standing position, a twisting motion, stretching up e.g. when hanging laundry, a strong cough.

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

There is a lot that you can do throughout your life to prevent osteoporosis later in life. The earlier you start, the better, but giving your bones the nutrients they need is worth it at any age. Strength and muscles are also crucial for good bone health. A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits.

 

They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing to assess your nutrition status. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.

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