Learn all about the causes of osteoporosis, risk factors, osteoporosis in women and post menopausal women and the prevention in this article. Read also Menopause, Osteoporosis and Estrogen for more information about menopause related osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disorder of the skeletal system in which there is an increased loss of bone mass and strength often because the bone losing its normial amount of calcium supplies. This weakens the bones and increases risks of having bone fractures. Fractures usually occur in the hip, spine and wrist. Without treatment, this condition may progress without any sign of pain until a bone breaks which will require cast work, hospitalization, and in more severe cases major surgery. Even a minor fall or injury may cause the bone to break.
Cases of osteoporosis in women and post menopausal women (particularly) is very common although it’s also found amongst men and women of all ages. Osteoporosis in post menopausal women may usually occur right after menopause.
Osteoporosis risk factors
- Low calcium and vitamin D consumption
- Inactive lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Being a woman
- Advancing ages
- Small and thin body frames
- Certain medical conditions
- Taking certain medications such as cortisostreoid, antidepressant medications, anti-seizure drugs, certain cancer treatment drugs, etc.
Causes of osteoporosis
What causes osteoporosis varies. The exact causes of osteoarthritis are unknown, yet doctors have many suspicions.
Aging causes our bone to become more fragile. Most of our bone mass is established before the age of 30, and after about age 35, as a part of the normal aging process, our bodies begin to produce lesser calcium and breakdown bone faster than we are able to rebuild it resulting in natural degeneration of the bone.
Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis since:
- Women’s bone density is less than of a man;
- After menopause, post menopausal women experience rapid bone loss due to decrease in estrogen;
- Many women opt for heavy dieting and skip highly nutritious food items in order to lose weight, resulting in weaker bones.
- women who want to lose weight by exercising too much and eating too little, are at risk of osteoporosis. This is because excessive training and insufficient nutrition absorption may cause low estrogen levels, one of the leading causes of osteoporosis among women;
- The natural decline in hormonal production, low estrogen and testosterone level in women and men respectively, is another causes of osteoporosis. When women reach menopause, they are not protected by their estrogen hormones anymore thus bone loss accelerates leading to post menopausal osteoporosis. In men a reduction in the hormone testosterone also encourages bone loss.
The behavioral causes of increasing the risk of osteoporosis are smoking, alcohol abuse, taking steroids, being underweight, sedentary lifestyle (prolonged inactivity, lack of exercise and immobility) and a deficiency of calcium, vitamin D and protein consumption in the past. Eating disorder like anorexia and bulimia - poor intake of nutrients, excessive exercising, amenorrhea and decreased levels of estrogen have all been identified as factors that contribute to the development of osteoporosis among young girls.
Race and heredity
Other causes of osteoporosis are race and heredity. Whites and Asians, tall and thin women and those with a family history of osteoporosis are those at the highest risk of getting osteoporosis.
Diseases and disorders
- Bone marrow disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, liver disease, and increases in phosphate is all linked to osteoporosis. There are also some diseases that are associated with aging that cause osteoporosis, which include kidney failure, liver disease, cancers, Paget’s disease, endocrine or glandular diseases, gonadal failure and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Having a certain bone condition called Osteopenia, which is low bone mass, increases the risk to develop osteoporosis. Repeated occurrences of gout and gout like diseases also have a greater effect on bone loss.
- Previous rheumatoid related illness can lead to chronic inflammation of the joints.
- Avascular necrosis - this is a condition where blood near a bone is cut off, this leads to bone death as well as joint damage. Avascular necrosis typically afflicts the hip joint.
- Metabolic disorders - for example, Hemochromatosis can result in high levels of iron being deposited in the joints.
- Joint infection - it is believed that cartilage may deteriorate in people who have defects in their cartilage and joints.
Other possible causes of osteoporosis
- Certain medications may contribute to a loss of bone density like steroids, seizure drugs, cortisone medications, thyroid hormone and blood thinners that are also found to cause osteoporosis.
- Previous sports related or joint injuries is also considered when osteoporosis is present.
- Repeated occurrences of bleeding into a joint (as occurs with Hemophilia and other diseases).
- Thin and frail body structure.
Osteoporosis can cause walking difficulty and may lead to permanent disability, or even death. Other serious consequences include height loss, severe back pain, and deformity. What can you do to prevent osteoporosis from happening after menopause? The most effective way to maintain the strength of your bones during post menopausal stage requires a combination of lifestyle changes and dietary measures.
- Maintain an ideal body weight. Read Menopause and Weight Loss
- Deficiency in calcium causes osteoporosis thus you should eat foods that are high in calcium (about 1,000 mg per day) to enhance bone growth such as sardines, salmon, seafood, and green leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard, beet tops, kale, mustard greens, collards, spinach, dandelion greens, watercress, parsley, chicory, turnip greens, broccoli leaves, asparagus, blackstrap molasses, broccoli and cabbage. Other good sources of calcium include almonds, carob, figs, filberts, oats, prunes, sesame seeds, low-fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, orange juice, cereals, breads, tofu and other soy products. Calcium needs become greater in older adults and post menopausal women whose bodies can no longer rebuild bone mass.
- Include vitamin D-rich foods in your dietary regimen including fish oils such as found in salmon, mackerel, sardines), eggs (including the yolks), sweet potatoes, tuna, vegetable oils and cod liver oil. Recent studies suggest that bone fractures can be reduced by 30-50% in individuals with low dietary calcium simply with the addition of a calcium and vitamin D supplement. When needed, take high-quality supplements prescribed by your doctor or health-care provider to fight post menopausal osteoporosis.
- Get 15-20 minutes of sunlight exposure daily to boost production of vitamin D.
- Discontinue smoking. There is a direct link between tobacco use and lower bone density so smoking cessation is recommended to prevent osteoporosis.
- Bone injuries is one of the causes of osteoporosis, hence do your best to prevent injuring your bones and joints –try to avoid accidents such as sports related, implementing joint protection by using splints and braces.
- Avoid high-impact activities and exercise caution to prevent falls.
- The use of medications can and does play an important role in the prevention of osteoporosis especially in post menopausal women. Calcium and vitamin D supplements as mentioned previously are often paired with bisphosphonates like Alendronate and Risedronate, selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) like Raloxifene, and hormonal replacements like Estrogen and Testosterone. All medications have some side effects and these are best discussed with your doctor.
- Exercise is crucial to prevent brittle bones. Exercise also helps to regulate body weight to a healthy level.
Exercising and physical activities tips to prevent osteoporosis:
- Weight-bearing exercises like walking, biking, stair climbing, or dancing 30 minutes a day at least two times a week help to increase bone density, keep muscles flexible and ensure better physical balance in people of all ages. Engage in weight training exercises also help in strengthening the bones. Stretching exercises such as yoga and pilates are also recommended for post menopausal women as well as women of all ages.
- Walking is the best form of exercise to but you can also choose biking, swimming or aerobics.
- Walk in chest deep water: If you have suffered from fracture, walking in water is the best form of exercise. You can do this exercise three times a week for up to 30 minutes a day. The water will support body weight and ease the stress off the bones and joints hence there is less erosion. Most post menopausal women should able to bear with this type of exercise.
- Use a chair and the floor for exercise: Complement water walking by doing some muscle strengthening exercises like abdominal curls, shoulder blade squeezes and back extensions. You can do these exercises on a chair or on the floor.
Diet tips to prevent osteoporosis:
- Eat different types of food products to prevent osteoporosis: Bones do not contain calcium alone but contain an amalgam of boron, zinc and copper along with other minerals. You can get these trace elements by eating variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and other unprocessed foods.
- If you want to increase calcium content include Parmesan cheese in your diet. To lessen fat intake and increase calcium, add powdered non-fat dry milk powder in soups, casseroles and other beverages. Some of the food products that promote healthy bones are avocado, black pepper, cabbage, cod liver oil, Dandelion, garlic, onions, Parsley, Pigweed and Horse tail. Eating pineapple also prevents bone fractures due to the presence of manganese in pineapple.
- Studies have also shown that post-menopausal women can have supplements containing manganese (5 mg/day), copper (2.5 mg/day), and zinc (15 mg/day) in combination with a calcium supplement (1,000 mg/day). It is termed to be more effective to prevent osteoporosis than having the calcium supplement alone.
- Studies have shown that vitamin K is very useful in maintaining healthy bones. It is found in green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, lettuce and spinach. You can also consume vitamin K supplements.
- Avoid fizzy drinks: Cola and other carbonated soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which contains phosphorus which is a mineral, when taken in excess, causes your body to excrete calcium and worsen post menopausal osteoporosis.
- Ease salt intake: Excess intake of salt throws the calcium out of the body. Hence do not include salt more than necessary. Avoid processed and junk foods and carbonated beverages.
Other tips to prevent osteoporosis:
- Stop smoking: Smoking has been shown to accelerate bone loss and cause osteoporosis. It accelerates the rate at which the body metabolizes estrogen and thus canceling the benefits of ERT. It has been shown to cause bone loss in men and postmenopausal women too.
- Control your medicines: Some drugs have been shown to hasten bone loss. The most common types of drugs are corticosteroids taken for variety of conditions like rheumatic, allergic and respiratory disorders, L-thyroxine a thyroid medicine and furosemide which is a diuretic used against fluid retention associated with high blood pressure and kidney problems.
For post menopausal women who are already developing osteoporosis, doctors might prescribe a monthly tablet Boniva® (ibandronate sodium) to improve osteoporosis although it is not always suitable for all women.
That’s all, causes of osteoporosis, risk factors, osteoporosis in post menopausal women and many tips on how to prevent it. Clearly, osteoporosis can rear its ugly head at some point. But you can take appropriate action to ensure you are doing everything you can to prevent the onset or, at the very least, stopping its progression. Osteoporosis is easily preventable by means of living a healthy lifestyle, exercise and proper diet.
Performing exercise at an early age may help achieve higher peak bone mass and good muscle strength. Having enough physical activities helps delay bone degeneration and prevent osteoporosis even at the later years of your life including after menopause. A well-balanced diet with sufficient calcium and vitamin D for the bones and muscles will also help decrease the risk of getting osteoporosis in women generally and post menopausal women particularly.