An Overview of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease. This is because you normally aren’t aware of it until after you break a bone. By this time your bone density is decreasing and you are more likely to suffer from additional fractures as you age.
It is recommended for women over 50 and who are post-menopausal to have a bone density test. This test will then determine if your risk of developing osteoporosis is high. Another test is done usually two to three years later and compared to the first. A doctor can then see if your risk has increased or not.
If you go for regular checkups your doctor will advise you to increase your calcium intake as you age. As well as calcium you need to get adequate doses of vitamin D. For those who live in cold climates a vitamin D supplement is advised. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is the best way to ensure a good intake of all essential vitamins and minerals.
As you age you tend to start exercising less and this is not good for your bone mass. You should try to do some form of exercise that helps to strengthen your muscles. Walking and swimming are excellent choices and easy on your joints.
Another area of concern is your lifestyle habits. If you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol you have increased your risk of developing osteoporosis.
If you suffer from a hip or spinal fracture at an early age you will want to get a bone density test done. If your T-Score comes back at -1 or more then you will need to start taking additional amounts of calcium.
For women increasing your vitamins and calcium level is a good idea at any age. This is especially important if you are someone who does not consume many dairy products or are lactose intolerant.
Even women who are currently experiencing menopausal symptoms it is a good idea to start watching your calcium intake. Do this, along with getting additional exercise, and you will start reducing your risk level very quickly.
There are certain treatments that can be used for anyone diagnosed with osteoporosis including estrogen and hormone therapy. If your risk level is not high then increasing your calcium and mineral levels by a supplement and natural foods is good enough.
By taking the time to think about what you are eating and how it affects your future you can help reduce your own risk factor. If anyone in your family has a history of osteoporosis then talk with your doctor about getting an early bone scan. This could save you from a lot of heartache in the coming years.
The Main Causes of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a condition in which your bones start to become brittle and are susceptible to breaking. Your bones are weak and this is characterized by having a low bone mass along with a loss of bone tissue. For anyone suffering from osteoporosis your hip, spine, and wrists are most likely to be at risk for being fractured or broken.
Most people associate osteoporosis with seniors but this condition actually starts much earlier. Your bone density reaches its peak at the age of 25 and this is why young people should receive adequate calcium.
People develop osteoporosis because an imbalance occurs between new bone formation and old bone resorption. What this basically means is that not enough new bone is being formed, or too much of the old bone is reabsorbed.
Your body requires calcium and phosphate for normal bone formation. When these minerals are not adequate enough your bones start to become brittle. Calcium is also required by your body to allow your major organs to function properly. Organs such as your heart and brain may start to steal the calcium from your bones, again resulting in a weakening of your bones.
Women are most susceptible to developing osteoporosis and this is due to a lack of estrogen. As women go through menopause their estrogen levels drop and this increases the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Men and women who suffer from thyroid problems, weak muscles, and bone cancer can also be at risk of developing this disease. Certain genetic disorders and medications that interfere with calcium are other causes of osteoporosis.
Your lifestyle, gender, and race can all have an impact on your risk level. Post-menopausal women who are of Caucasian or Asian descent have a high-risk level. People who smoke and drink high levels of alcohol are another group of people putting themselves at risk. The biggest problem with osteoporosis is that there are no signs or symptoms.
As you age you may notice that your bones and muscles begin to ache, especially in your lower back or neck areas. As your osteoporosis gets worse you will experience more pain and discomfort. These affected areas can become very tender which worsens when weight is put on that limb.
If you notice any of these signs and for women are past the menopause stage then you should seek the advice of your doctor. He will probably recommend that you get a bone density test done. This will show you exactly what stage of osteoporosis you are at.
The Symptoms of Osteoporosis
You may have osteoporosis even if you have never broken or fractured a bone. This silent disease could just be lying dormant waiting to strike! As you age you may start to see certain symptoms or characteristics of osteoporosis.
You may find that you suffer from constant backache, your posture becomes poor and when you fall you consistently get small breaks and fractures. These symptoms become more prominent as you age because your bone mass decreases. Basically, this means that your bones are becoming more brittle with each passing year.
There are over 10 million women in the United States alone suffering from osteoporosis. It can strike everyone including men but the highest risk category are females who are post-menopausal.
Your bone mass is constantly being broken down and reabsorbed by your cells. When osteoporosis rears its ugly head it means that this process has been disrupted. Your bone mass is either being broken down too quickly or reabsorbed too quickly. It can even be a combination of both processes. The important thing to note is that as you age more of your bone mass is reabsorbed rather than being replaced.
One of the very first symptoms of osteoporosis is the appearance of back pain. If you are dealing with this type of pain regularly then a visit to your doctor may be in order. He may recommend that you get a bone density scan done.
Many individuals with osteoporosis start to have a slumped look about them as their posture declines. They can also experience a loss of height. In severe cases, your back begins to bend backwards and you develop a hump. This hump forms because your vertebrae start to slowly collapse and you lose the ability to stand upright.
Once diagnosed with osteoporosis you must be careful when lifting or do certain activities. If you fall or slip you could easily break your hip, wrist or even damage your spine. If you live in a cold climate you must be especially careful when walking outside in slippery conditions.
You may not discover that you have osteoporosis until after you have broken a bone. If this happens to you start increasing your calcium consumption and start to exercise slowly. This will help you reduce the spread of osteoporosis and help keep you mobile.
You should also understand that not all broken bones are a serious threat if you have osteoporosis. It is just your chances of fracturing a bone are increased and the healing process could be slower.
What is a Bone Density Test?
At one time the only way you knew if you had osteoporosis was after you had broken a bone. This was often too late as by this point your bones could already be weak. Today bone density tests can show you if you are at risk of developing osteoporosis before you have to suffer from any broken bones.
A bone density test comprises of a special type of X-ray which measures your calcium and bone mineral levels in any area of your bone. It is actually a fairly good way of predicting if you are at risk or not. The results from a bone density test can then be compared to averages of people of the same age, gender, and characteristics.
Having a good bone mass is important. The mineral count should be high as this shows that you have dense bones which are less likely to break. If your test results come back with low levels of minerals then this could mean that you are at risk of developing osteoporosis at some point in the future.
Many people often get confused by bone density tests and bone scans. A bone scan is a test which is used to locate fractures and other bone abnormalities. You are injected with a liquid prior to the bone scan.
As you age your bones become weaker and bone density tests are recommended for anyone over 65 years old. If you have a family history of osteoporosis you may wish to request a test earlier. Normally bone density tests are taken two years apart so changes can be accurately seen.
Women tend to be more at risk for osteoporosis than men, with Caucasian and Asian women being in the highest risk level.
A bone density test can be performed in several ways. Some of the testing machines are large and allow you to lie down to be tested. Other testing equipment is small and portable and good for testing smaller areas of your body.
The areas of your body that are normally tested are your vertebrae, neck, the femur bone, and your wrist and forearm areas. A bone density test can be expensive and is not always covered by a health insurance plan.
The results of a bone density test are delivered as T-Scores. These scores are comparable to a young adult of the same gender. For instance, a T-Score of 0 will show that your bones are that of a 30-year-old and you are probably not a risk for osteoporosis.
If your score drops to a -1 or -2.5 then this indicates that you are at risk of developing full-blown osteoporosis. You must then take action to help prevent your osteoporosis from getting worse.
Recommended Osteoporosis Exercises
Being active is an important part of life. Those people who stay more active are less likely to develop health problems as they age. One of these diseases is osteoporosis which is often known as a silent killer. You do not know that you have it until you fall and hurt yourself. If your bones are weak and brittle you could end up with a spinal fracture with devastating results.
Whether you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or just concerned with developing it, you should try and get more exercise into your life. Exercises that are good for developing strong bones and muscles should be included at least three times a week. Strengthening your muscles will allow you to carry out your daily tasks with less effort and stress on your joints.
If you are a woman you are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and once you have gone through menopause your risk increases. Your best choice is to start exercising immediately to keep your bones strong.
Strength training is one of the best ways to increase your bone density. This form of exercise has been shown to slow down your loss of minerals. You can use weights, weight machines, and resistance bands to do strength training. Water aerobics and exercises are also great for your muscles and joints.
You can strengthen your back by performing upper back exercises. This will help improve your posture and reduce stress on your spine if you do fall.
Some form of aerobic exercise should be incorporated into your exercise plan. This could be walking, dancing, water aerobics, stair climbing. Even daily gardening and golfing are great for your body!
As you age you start to lose your flexibility and this is something you don’t want to experience. To enjoy a full range of mobility in your senior years there are some wonderful exercises you can do. The best exercises to do that help in reducing the effects of osteoporosis are Tai Chi and Yoga. Of course, walking is good for everyone regardless of age or gender.
Tai Chi and Yoga will help increase your flexibility and posture and improve your muscle strength along with improved balance. If you decide to exercise just be cautious about doing exercises which put too much strain on your spine. Now is not the time to suddenly start running or jumping for long periods of time.
If you are just starting a new exercise regimen then go slowly and allow your body to get used to exercising regularly. You will very quickly both see and feel the differences. Lifting heavy shopping bags and doing your daily household chores won’t be so difficult. When your grandchildren come to visit you will have lots of time and energy for them!
Unfortunately, there is a condition known as Osteoarthritis and as its name suggests this is a combination of osteoporosis and arthritis and can be painful to live with. Which is why I wanted to include a section on this disease as well for you.
Natural Treatments for Osteoarthritis
There are many natural treatments for osteoarthritis that can be used to alleviate the pain associated with this disorder. Knee, hand, hip and spinal joints are the primary places where pain may occur due to a loss of cartilage and the subsequent pain associated with bone rubbing on bone. Exercise, weight loss, supplements, and lotions are just some of the treatments that can be used to help treat osteoarthritis.
Diet, Exercise and Weight Loss
Taking short walks and swimming at the local recreation center are two exercises that can be used to make joint muscles stronger. Biking should also be considered as it reduces stress on the joints. This is a great alternative since more stress will occur on knee joints if one walks long distances or runs.
Exercise is important since it helps to reduce excess weight. Being overweight puts more strain on the knee and hip joints. Swimming is a great exercise when one is overweight since water buoyancy helps to remove much of the pressure on joints. In the process, muscles will also be strengthened to support the knee and hip joints and allow for more use of these joints throughout the day to day activities.
A diet consisting of plenty of fruits and vegetables, with a reduction in fats and processed carbohydrates such as white bread and sugar, will also help with weight loss. A balanced diet is important, but one should check with their physician before starting any weight loss program.
Two supplements that may be effective in relieving arthritic pain are chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate.
Glucosamine sulfate has been found to offer some relief from the joint pain suffered by those with arthritis, although it should be noted that there has been some debate as to whether an alternate form of glucosamine, glucosamine hydrochloride, is effective.
Chondroitin sulfate is not as effective in helping with the pain of arthritis, although some research demonstrates that it may cause deterioration to go slower when combined with glucosamine.
There are other supplements that may have some benefits in the treatment of arthritis, such as fish oil and ginger, but more research is needed to test their effectiveness.
One of the most promising lotions is a cream called Voltaren, which is an anti-inflammatory lotion that can help to deal with the pain of osteoarthritis.
Another cream that can be helpful is made from capsicum, which is the substance that gives chili peppers their hot taste. Capsicum, when rubbed on the joint, can help to relieve the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis and can be purchased over the counter.
In summary, a great natural treatment for arthritis is that of weight loss and exercise.
Supplements and lotions may be helpful to a certain degree, but the stress of extra weight on the joints where bone rubs on bone can only be alleviated by maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a proper diet. Again, one should consult with a doctor before starting any weight loss program, or any other form of treatment.
Living with the Pain of Osteoarthritis
The pain of osteoarthritis can be very hard to live with. Knee, finger, hip, and spinal joints are all affected as the cartilage disappears, and bone rubs on bone. Although there are several alternative treatments that may not work, such as shark cartilage, other natural remedies offer some hope of pain relief. These include electrical stimulation, acupuncture and support for the affected joint through the use of canes and braces.
Accessing information about natural remedies for osteoarthritis is also important so that one may become knowledgeable about the various natural treatments available. An informed decision can then be made as to the best treatment.
Electrical stimulation has been shown in some cases to help with the swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
One type of treatment involves placing electrodes in close proximity to the affected area. A small electrical current is then applied and passed through the skin around the affected area.
A similar type of electrical stimulation involves attaching electrodes to acupuncture needles close to the joint and passing an electrical charge through the acupuncture needles. This procedure can also be helpful in relieving the pain caused by osteoarthritis.
Acupuncture by itself may bring some relief to arthritic pain, although it should be noted that it might not be effective for everyone.
Massage and Chiropractic Therapy
Chiropractic treatments have been shown to have little effect on the treatment of arthritis itself, but if muscular spasms occur, these treatments can help to reduce or stop the spasms. Alternatively, a registered massage therapist could provide gentle massage to the affected joints.
There are other options that can be used to help a person with osteoarthritis. For example, use of cane and braces can help to reduce the weight being placed on arthritic joints such as the knee or the hip. Application of cold or hot cloths may also help to reduce painful muscle spasms.
It is important to research and become familiar with as much information about osteoporosis and osteoarthritis as possible, since the more that one knows about this disorder, the more one will be able to find a treatment that might provide effective relief. Organizations such as the Arthritis Foundation provide a good starting point.
The most important source of information, however, is your family doctor or other specialist. A doctor can determine the extent of the arthritis and suggest the best treatment method. They will also be able to answer any questions that a person has and recommend natural treatments that are the most effective.
Whether you have just osteoporosis or have osteoarthritis you should never lose hope that you can find relief for your condition. There are other natural remedies such as joint strengthening exercises, and therapeutic creams that can be used to reduce the pain. Research and consultation with a doctor to find out all of the available options should be the main consideration, however.