Osteoporosis: the silent killer

Despite all the modern technology available, the age old condition of Osteoporosis remains a major clinical problem with an estimated 50% of white women, and 15% of white men, having a risk of fracture due to Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is silent because there are no symptoms at all until you experience a fracture. Osteoporosis is defined as the demineralization of the bone below 2.5 standard deviations from the norm. The only reliable way to diagnose this is to have a bone density scan. The above definition can change slightly if there are fractures.

Calcium forms the main component of the bone mineralization. Unfortunately the skeleton acts as a calcium bank for the body. The level of calcium in the blood is incredibly well controlled - withdrawing or depositing from the skeleton to keep it exactly between 2.1 & 2.5.

Calcium is readily available in a normal diet and it is commonly substituted in vitamins and dietary supplements. Usually all that additional calcium goes to waste as it is not absorbed. The absorption of calcium is controlled by other factors such as hormones, sunlight, vitamins, physical activity etc. This means that you can eat as many tablets as you like but it is unlikely to improve your calcium.

We all build calcium stores in the bone up to the age of about 30. Then it is downhill all the way. This is why it is so important to build up a good bone mass when you are young.

Conditions such as eating disorders have a terrible effect on us and can haunt us for the rest of our lives simply because of the poor starting point they give us

After 30, everyone then loses 0.3% of their skeletal mass every year. That would be fine but women loose 10 times that i.e. 3% every year for the 10 years around menopause. That means that most women lose 30% of their skeletal mass around menopause!!!

This all sounds like the end of the world is here but there are things we can do to treat it and the first step in treating Osteoporosis is identifying it and being on the lookout for people who are at high risk.

Known risk factors are: Family history, fair skin & hair, slender body build, early menopause, smoking, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, inactivity, excessive exercise to a point where you stop menstruating.

Generally, from the age of 40, all women should have a bone density scan every 5 years.

Bone density scans give early warning and allow us to treat potential OP early. The range below normal and 2.5 standard deviations is Known as Osteopenia or thinning of the bone. I recommend people in this range to take Osteochoice as a supplement as it has vitamins & minerals that enhance calcium absorption. They should also try to eliminate risk factors such as smoking and exercise etc.

Once Osteoporosis has been diagnosed, treatment should be considered. There are many options and this should be discussed with your GP, Orthopod or Gynae.

Most treatments are aimed at halting progression of the disease rather than actively building bone mass. Treatment therefore takes many years to be effective but it can make a massive difference to your quality of life in your latter years.