by Emily McBride
(last updated November 20, 2009)
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that is most common in older women. It is caused by the bone density decreasing, leaving bones brittle, fragile, and prone to breaking. Although osteoporosis is most common in post-menopausal women, it can occur with men as well. Not only is osteoporosis a nuisance, but it is actually dangerous and can make life miserable. Since osteoporosis is a purely internal disease, it is often difficult to recognize the signs and symptoms of osteoporosis. However, it is important to do so because those who suffer from osteoporosis must make lifestyle changes.
The most common symptom of osteoporosis is breaking a bone in a situation where it shouldn't have broken. This often occurs later in life, when there is an increased risk of tripping and falling. If you break a bone just from tripping while you were walking, there is a good chance that your bone density has decreased and that you are suffering from osteoporosis. Breaking a bone when you probably should not have broken one is referred to as a "fragility fracture."
Another symptom of osteoporosis is due to the collapsing of the vertebrae in the spinal chord. This is called a "compression fracture," and it often leads to hunching over and a shorter height. Often compression fractures cause nerve pain, so sudden back pain is a symptom to look for.
Because there are not a lot of symptoms to look for, it is important to know some of the risk factors so that you can be aware of your chances of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is most common in females, and is usually more present in advanced age (the decrease in hormones that comes with age can contribute to the reduction of bone density). Chances of osteoporosis also increase with family history—if your parents or grandparents suffered from osteoporosis, there is a higher probability that you will suffer as well.
Although age, sex, and genetics can't be changed, there are some risk factors that can be changed and prevented. Overweight and obese people have greater risk of osteoporosis, as do people who smoke or drink alcohol or carbonated drinks excessively. Exercise and muscle strength can help prevent it, but too much exercise will do more harm than good. Malnutrition and vitamin deficiency are also key factors.
It is important to be diagnosed with osteoporosis if you do have it so that you can make some important life changes and reduce your risk of getting hurt. However, if you are young, start now to prevent osteoporosis!
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