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A recent large study has shown that calcium supplementation, with or without added vitamin D, shows no significant increase in the risk of any cardiovascular events.

Definition

Since osteoporosis occurs due to decreased bone production together with increased bone resorption, it results in brittle bones and an increased incidence of sustaining pathological fractures.

The most high risk patients to develop osteoporosis are Asian or Caucasian women, especially those who are post-menopausal.   

Signs and symptoms

There's typically no signs and symptoms associated with the early stages of osteoporosis, but once the bones are weakened and brittle, then patients do start to develop the following issues:

  • Pain in the back which may be caused by a fracture of the vertebra(e).
  • A hunched-over posture.
  • Loss of height over a relatively short period of time.
  • Fracturing of a bone which happens more easily than expected. The most affected bones include the spinal vertebrae, the wrists and the hips.

Associated risk factors

Many risk factors for osteoporosis exist and these can be divided into reversible and irreversible factors, hormonal factors, dietary factors and the use of certain medications.

Reversible factors

  • Using tobacco products.
  • Excessive use of alcohol, which is defined as regular consumption of more than 2 drinks a day.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.

Irreversible factors

  • As mentioned, being an Asian or Caucasian female.
  • Elderly.
  • Having a family history of first-degree relatives (mother, father or sibling) who were or are diagnosed with osteoporosis,especially if a pathological fracture had occurred.
  • Small body frame due to there being less bone mass present.

Hormonal factors

  • Situations where oestrogen and testosterone levels are decreased in women and men, respectively.
  • Hyperthyroidism causes an excess of thyroxine which may result in increased bone loss due to the metabolic rate being increased.
  • Overactive parathyroid and/or adrenal glands.

Dietary factors

  • A lifelong lack of calcium intake.
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia, which can reduce sex hormone levels and thus result in bone mass loss.
  • Gastrointestinal surgery, where a decrease in the size of the stomach or removal of part of the small intestine can result in decreased absorption of nutrients.

Medications

  • Long-term use of steroids interferes with the bone turnover process.
  • Other medications linked with osteoporosis may include those needed to manage convulsions, cancer, gastric reflux and organ transplant rejection.

Prevention

The best way to prevent the development of osteoporosis is to focus on the reversible factors associated with osteoporosis, especially if patients belong to the high risk group. This means that patients should refrain from smoking and using alcohol excessively, as well as increase their dietary intake of calcium and increase physical activity by performing aerobic exercises.

 Patients who are osteoporotic should try and prevent falls by following these suggestions:

  • Wearing low-healed shoes with non-slip soles.
  • Remove any loose rugs and electrical cords which may cause one to slip on or trip over. Slippery surfaces should also be dealt with appropriately by placing non-slip mats.
  • Make sure rooms are lit well so that any obstacles can be well visualized and avoided in order to prevent falls. 
  • Install garb bars on the inside and outside of baths and showers.
  • Make sure that the bed is placed appropriately in order to be able to get in and out of it without any difficulty.

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