Osteoporosis is an age-related condition that occurs when bone reabsorption outpaces bone reformation, leaving bones brittle and more prone to fracture.
Our bones are constantly being reabsorbed (or broken down) and simultaneously regenerated. This natural process—known as bone remodeling—fulfills a twofold purpose: First, bone remodeling ensures that everyday injuries to bones are adequately repaired, reinforcing the structural integrity of the skeleton and preventing the accumulation of damaged bone. Second, bone remodeling allows for the regulation of blood calcium levels, which play a crucial role in nerve signal conduction, muscle contractility, and cardiac functioning.
Unfortunately, we attain peak bone mass at around age 30. Thereafter, we start to lose bone mineral density—i.e. calcium—at a rate that outstrips bone reconstruction. Although a measure of bone loss is considered to be a natural consequence of aging, osteoporosis results in excessively porous or fragile bones that fracture easily.
In fact, osteoporosis—the most prevalent skeletal disorder worldwide—results in a fractured bone approximately every 3 seconds. Although women with osteoporosis outnumber men with the condition by a staggering ratio of 10:1, both sexes are at risk during the aging process. This is because age-related dips in estrogen (for women) and androgen (for men) often contribute to accelerated bone density loss.
Additional Risk Factors for Osteoporosis Include:
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Osteoporosis is a “silent disease.”
The condition can go undetected until an individual with osteoporosis unexpectedly breaks a bone. In medical terminology, spinal fractures that result from osteoporosis are known as vertebral compression fractures. These breakages occur when a weakened or porous vertebral body shatters and collapses upon itself. Because even minor forces—such as sneezing or lifting—can cause vertebral compression fractures, osteoporosis carries a high risk of developing into a debilitating condition.
Warning Signs of Osteoporosis May Include:
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Osteopenia—or a moderate decrease in bone mineral density—is considered to be the precursor to osteoporosis. However, without undergoing a bone density test, few individuals realize that they have osteopenia.
For individuals with osteopenia or the early stages of osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend a regimen of conservative treatment options. These methods often include diet modifications (such as increased Calcium or Vitamin D intake) or medications that decelerate bone loss and hasten bone reformation. Estrogen replacement therapy is sometimes used as a supplemental treatment to slow the advance of Type I (or postmenopausal) Osteoporosis.
However, aside from diet modifications which are largely ineffective for treating moderate to advanced stages of osteoporosis, traditional medications and therapies for osteoporosis are fraught with complications. For example, osteoporosis medications have been linked to osteoporosis of the jaw and esophageal cancer; and estrogen replacement therapy has been correlated with an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.
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