The month of May marks National Osteoporosis Awareness Month in the United States. Although World Osteoporosis Day is not until October 20th, we can use the American event as a global reminder of the importance of confronting osteoporosis. In Europe, India, Japan and the USA alone, there are an estimated 125 million people with osteoporosis. So what is osteoporosis, and what should we know about it?
Osteoporosis means “porous bone,” describing a magnified view of a bone that has lost significant bone density and looks porous compared to a bone’s typical honeycomb pattern. A person is diagnosed with osteoporosis when their bone mass has deteriorated or their body is no longer producing enough bone, leaving the patient’s skeletal frame weak and susceptible to substantial fractures. Unfortunately, without a bone density test, it is difficult to diagnose osteoporosis in patients before bone fractures occur. This is why it is so crucial to know what affects bone health in both positive and negative ways.
A fact that surprises many people is that there are several different types of prescription medications with side effects the affect bone health. While treating one serious health condition, you might inadvertently support the development of another. For example, Invokana is a popular SGLT2 inhibitor used by type 2 diabetics to prevent glucose from entering the bloodstream. For many diabetics who struggle to naturally control their blood glucose levels, this ancillary medication is life-saving. However, recent studies have found that patients taking this medication have an increased risk of bone fractures as well as several other serious adverse side effects that have spurred many patient-led Invokana lawsuits.
It’s important to talk to your doctor about the risks associated with any new medication you might be prescribed. There are several commonly prescribed drugs like Invokana that could negatively affect your bone density. If you are concerned about drug-induced osteoporosis, consult your doctor about your medication options to ensure the benefits of any medication you are taking outweigh the risks.
Diet & Exercise
As with other common health conditions like heart disease or diabetes, diet and exercise can greatly influence your bone health as well. As many children encouraged to drink milk by their parents will tell you, a calcium-rich diet promotes strong and healthy bones. What is not so commonly known is that a high-sodium diet will work against your bone-building habits. Too much sodium in your diet actually increases calcium loss through urination. If you eat a diet full of salty, processed foods, no matter how mindful you are about your calcium intake, you are inherently working against your goal of building stronger bones.
For those concerned about their sodium intake and seeking to improve their overall bone health as they age, many health professionals recommend the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet. Both encourage people to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains along with healthy fats. People who stick to these diets are also encouraged to eat less refined sugar and processed foods.
In addition to diet, there are two main categories of exercise recommended for people who want to prevent fractures and other injuries: weight-bearing exercises and muscle-strengthening activities. Weight-bearing exercises include but are not limited to walking, hiking, tennis, dancing, and yoga. Muscle-strengthening exercises include weight lifting or bodyweight training. If you’re just starting out, try using a resistance band in your workouts to strengthen your muscles by fighting gravity. You’d be surprised at just how effective exercises with a resistance band can be at improving balance, injury prevention, and working a variety of muscle groups.
Age and Gender
We can control certain risk factors for osteoporosis by paying attention to diet or the medications we take, but some risk factors are uncontrollable like age and gender. Women, for example, make up nearly 80% of patients diagnosed with osteoporosis. Because of this incredible disparity between genders, osteoporosis is often considered a “woman’s disease,” but it does affect men too. The reason we see osteoporosis in women more frequently is because women’s bones tend to be smaller and thinner as compared to men’s bones. As we age, we all lose bone density. However, women have less to lose to begin with and therefore are more likely to be diagnosed with osteoporosis than a man of the same age.
Knowing not only the risk factors, but also the ways you can lessen the impact of these risk factors can go a long way in reducing your chances of developing osteoporosis. If you know that osteoporosis runs in your family or if you realize as a woman that the odds are against you, you can start making small lifestyle changes now to protect your future self from the harmful effects of osteoporosis and other significant bone diseases. Make the change this May and ensure your bones stay strong and healthy for years to come!
If you think you might be at risk, you should find a doctor to come up with a personalized action plan. Here are some tips on how to find a doctor or therapist in Singapore. You can also speak to a doctor online on RingMD from wherever you are (just click the button below).
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