Avoid osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is misunderstood, particularly by the younger populace. It was widely believed that osteoporosis affects people who are post 40; however cases in the recent past have indicated that people under the age of 30 are at risk too.  Given the scenario, it is advisable that the youth of today adopt a healthy lifestyle which includes adequate diet and regular exercise in order to avoid osteoporosis in future.

Osteoporosis also has its roots in childhood and adolescence, which is the period when one’s body does the most bone building. Thus it is advisable for the younger generation to be extra cautious because it is them who can take preventive measures at the correct time and make a difference to their bones.

The mismatch between the inherent physiology and adaptation of western diet and lifestyle underlines the cause of osteoporosis in the younger generation. Unhealthy diet, lack of regular exercise, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of proper nutrition and calcium in the body, excessive smoking and consumption of alcohol, lack of exposure to sunlight and metabolism, etc. are some of the major lifestyle patterns that lead to the birth of the disease.

Osteoporosis can thus be recognised as a lifestyle related disease similar to that of hyper tension, diabetes, etc. The current lifestyle of the people is the greatest contributing factor towards the disease.

Osteoporosis was majorly a disease of the West. But lately with socio-economic developments in the Asian countries, adaptation of the western lifestyle and rapid ageing of the Asian population, osteoporosis has become one of the most rampant health problems in the region.

Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ because people with osteoporosis may not develop any symptoms. Most people get diagnosed for osteoporosis only when they get a fracture. Hence it is important for those at particular risk of osteoporosis, especially post-menopausal women and the youth, to be aware of the condition and what they can do to reduce the risk.

There is no perfect cure for this condition but preventive measures can impede the situation.

Osteoporosis can be categorised into two types: Type I osteoporosis is caused by hormonal changes while Type II is caused by dietary deficiencies.

The risk factor includes being inactive, lean, never being pregnant, low body weight, absence of menstrual period for a long time, family history of osteoporosis and long term use of medication.

A great amount of attention has to be paid to one’s diet.  Calcium and Vitamin D are important for preventing osteoporosis and hence one’s diet should have adequate amount of the same. This includes consumption of milk, yogurt, green vegetables, cereals, juices, eggs and other protein components.

Leading a healthy lifestyle, quitting smoking, curtailing alcohol consumption, regular exercise and a balanced diet will help in keeping the disease at bay.

Previously it was believed that osteoporosis is an uncontrollable, inevitable, and irreversible part of getting old. But the new era of medical science has ushered the wave of various health alternatives. Now people can defy this disease by taking charge of their own health. Aging will make human bones brittle, but the phenomenon is no more irreversible or uncontrollable.

It has to be kept in mind that more than medicines what is important is an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits. It is always better to prevent a disease than to fight it from within.  Hence if we want to reduce the growing number of fragility fractures, assessing the health of our bones and managing the risk for osteoporosis should be an important step as one enters one’s middle age.

(The author is Consultant Orthopedic Surgeon, Columbia Asia Hospital.)

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