Osteoporosis: Causes, Symptoms & Management



Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the bones to become brittle and weak. When a person suffers from osteoporosis, his bones become weak to such an extent that even mild stresses like bending over or minor injury can cause a break. In most cases, osteoporosis-related breaks occur in the spine, wrist or hip. It usually occurs when the creation of new bones fails to keep up with the loss of old bones. Osteoporosis affects both men and women although post-menopausal women are at a higher risk. To know more about the condition, follow DocTube.

Causes of Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis occurs when an excessive amount of bone mass is lost and when different changes occur in the bone tissue structure. Many patients suffering from osteoporosis have certain risk factors, however, others may develop the disease without having any specific risk factors. Some of the most common factors that may increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis may be identified as the following:

1. Age

With age, bone loss happens more quickly and the new bone growth becomes slower (Pye, S.R., Adams, K.R., Halsey, J.P., Klimiuk, P., Knight, S.M., Pal, B., Selby, P.L., Stewart, I.M., Swinson, D.R. and O'Neill, T.W., 2003. Frequency and causes of osteoporosis in men. Rheumatology, 42(6), pp.811-812). As you age, your bones become weaker and the risk of osteoporosis increases. 

2. Gender

Women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men. They have lower peak bone mass and smaller bones when compared to men.

3. Body size

Thin-boned and slender men and women are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis as they have less bone to lose as compared to men and women who are larger boned.

4. Family history

A person’s risk for osteoporosis and fractures usually increases if one of his parents have a history of hip fracture of osteoporosis (Riggs, B.L., 1991. Overview of osteoporosis. Western journal of medicine, 154(1), p.63). 

5. Hormonal changes

Low levels of certain hormones often increases a person’s risk of osteoporosis. For example, low estrogen levels are common in women after menopause. Also, men with conditions that lead to low testosterone are usually at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

6. Diet

A diet low in Vitamin D and calcium increases a person’s risk for fractures and osteoporosis (Akkawi, I. and Zmerly, H., 2018. Osteoporosis: current concepts. Joints, 6(02), pp.122-127). Poor protein intake and excessive dieting increases risk of bone loss and osteoporosis.

7. Medical conditions

Many medical conditions can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. These may include hormonal and endocrine diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, HIV/ AIDS, certain kinds of cancer and anorexia nervosa. On the other hand, long-term usage of certain medications can also make a person more susceptible to bone loss and osteoporosis.

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

In most cases, osteoporosis does not cause any direct symptoms. However, patients may notice certain changes in their bodies which may indicate that their bones are losing density and strength (Watts, N.B., 2018. Postmenopausal osteoporosis: a clinical review. Journal of women's health, 27(9), pp.1093-1096). Some of the most common warning signs and symptoms of osteoporosis include- 
  • Changes in natural posture which may include bending forward or stooping more
  • Losing an inch or more of your height 
  • Intense pain in the lower back region
  • Shortness of breath. This usually occurs if the disks in the spinal region are compressed enough to decrease your lung capacity. 

How to Prevent Osteoporosis?

1. Proper diet

It is important to follow an optimal diet for bone health that provides you with enough proteins, calcium, Vitamin D and calories. These are imperative in helping you maintain a proper bone formation and density which will in turn help in the prevention of osteoporosis (Prentice, A., 2004. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of osteoporosis. Public health nutrition, 7(1a), pp.227-243). 

2. Calcium intake

It is important to consume enough calcium everyday and this may include both calcium in foods and beverages along with supplements if needed (Rizzoli, R., Boonen, S., Brandi, M.L., Burlet, N., Delmas, P. and Reginster, J.Y., 2008. The role of calcium and vitamin D in the management of osteoporosis. Bone, 42(2), pp.246-249). The primary dietary sources of calcium include milk, dairy products like yogurt, cottage cheese and green vegetables like broccoli and kale. If you do not get enough calcium through your regular diet, your doctor may recommend you to take supplements. These usually come in the form of calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Supplements are mostly recommended for women as they are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

3. Vitamin D intake

Health experts recommend that men above the age of 70 and postmenopausal women consume Vitamin D daily. This helps to reduce fracture rate and bone less in older men and women. Milk supplemented with Vitamin D is considered to be the main dietary source of Vitamin D. Other good sources of Vitamin D are orange juice, cereal, yogurt and salmon.  When people do not get adequate Vitamin D from their diet, they may be suggested to take supplements to reduce their risk of osteoporosis. 

4. Alcohol

It is important to reduce alcohol consumption as much as possible as drinking a lot of alcohol can increase the risk of fracture.

5. Physical exercises

Regular physical exercises decrease fracture risk by improving bone mass in premenopausal women and also helps to maintain bone density in women who have already had menopause. Exercises can help in strengthening your muscles, improving your balance and at the same time, make you less likely to have falls and injuries that could lead to fracture or other grave injuries (Rittweger, J., 2006. Can exercise prevent osteoporosis?. Journal of Musculoskeletal and Neuronal Interactions, 6(2), p.162). It is advisable to exercise for at least 30-40 minutes three times each week. You may choose from different types of exercises such as resistance training, jumping, jogging and walking.

6. Smoking

Quitting smoking is strongly recommended for good bone health as smoking cigarettes may speed bone loss. It is thus always a good idea to give up smoking for your bone as well as overall health. 


  Which fruits are helpful in preventing osteoporosis?  

The best fruits to build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis are apples, bananas, pineapples, oranges and figs.

  Is osteoporosis reversible?  

Osteoporosis cannot be reversed or cured completely. However, there are several lifestyle and health adjustments that patients can make to improve bone loss.


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