“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.” — Reba McEntire
While Reba might be right, orthopedics across the world have a word of caution — make sure they are all ‘healthy bones’ — and they’re right. The health of our bones is critical to our overall well-being and longevity, a fact that is increasingly important today in light of the fact that there are higher amounts of toxins and contaminants in our food chain and environment.
It’s no coincidence that with aging, diminishing bone health is accompanied by an increase in fatigue, digestive problems, and maladies associated with a weakening immune system. One such malady is osteoporosis. Globally, the disease is known to cause more than 8.9 million fractures annually — that’s one osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds. This could get worse, with studies projecting a worldwide increase in incidence of hip fracture in men by 310% and 240% in women by 2050.
Osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’, and it occurs when bone density decreases, leading to weakness and fragility. Weaker bones usually mean higher chances of fracture or break. Unfortunately, there are no tell-tale signs — no pain and no inflammation, plus, it’s hard to identify with an X-ray. However, awareness of the risk factors associated with osteoporosis can help manage bone damage.
An Overview of the Risk Factors
Osteoporosis is often known as a ‘silent disease’ as it is almost impossible to notice the weakening of bones. Here are the various risk factors for osteoporosis broadly categorized as ‘under control’ (such as lifestyle) and ‘out of control’ (such as age and gender).
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
Bones naturally lose density as we age, meaning the chances of an aging person developing osteoporosis is high. A study revealed that at least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 are likely to suffer a fracture caused by weak bones.
Family History of Osteoporosis
Sometimes you inherit genes, sometimes bones. When it comes to osteoporosis, a family history of its occurrence often raises the chances of it afflicting an individual.
Estrogen is a female sex hormone that protects bones. For women going through menopause, there is a steep drop in the hormone causing bones to lose density, and become porous and vulnerable to fractures.
Osteoporosis affects all races and ethnicities, but if you are of Caucasian, Asian, or Latino descent, you’re at a higher risk.
Controllable Risk Factors
Low Calcium and Vitamin D Intake
Lack of calcium leads to diminished bone density, early bone loss, and higher risk of fractures. Calcium promotes the growth and development of healthy bones, and vitamin D helps your body effectively absorb calcium. Given that both work together to help build healthy bones, inadequacy of either can lead to their weakening or loss.
When one severely restricts food intake and becomes underweight, bones tend to become weaker. Eating disorders such as anorexia can cause serious damage to bone health.
Some wise man said, “excuses don’t kill fat, exercises do”. He was right in that exercise helps ward off osteoporosis by strengthening your bones (bonus: also strengthens your muscles). Stronger the bones, the less prone they are to fractures.
Smoking or Tobacco Use
Nicotine and toxins in tobacco products can lead to bone loss. Smoking triggers bone-damaging changes, such as increase in hormone levels that weaken the bone. Smokers have double the risk of fractures, and worse, take longer to heal.
Excessive consumption of alcohol (anything more than two alcoholic drinks a day) increases your risk of osteoporosis.
Basics for Healthier Bones
All factors considered, osteoporosis is largely a preventable condition for most people. In fact, prevention is the best bet in this case as there are treatments available but no cure for osteoporosis as of today. Let’s have a quick look at the basics for healthier bones:
Ensure you have a nutritious diet that includes adequate calcium. Low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt, sardines and salmons, green leafy vegetables, almonds and tofu are some great sources of the nutrient.
Adequate Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for the body to absorb calcium from the diet. A deficiency makes the body incapable of absorbing calcium from the diet, and then the body is forced to take calcium from the bones, making them weaker. Two prominent sources of vitamin D are sunlight and diet (fortified dairy products, saltwater fish, egg yolks, and liver. While most are fortunate enough to get vitamin D naturally, some others may need supplements to ensure adequate levels.
Lifestyle is often a major factor affecting health and, with bare minimum changes, most ailments can be prevented and osteoporosis is no exception. One cannot stress enough on the importance of exercise in preventing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises and resistance training are the most beneficial in fighting bone weakening. Hiking, climbing stairs, jogging, tennis, dancing, jumping rope are some of the popular weight-bearing exercises. Resistance includes activities that use muscle strength to build mass that also helps fortify bones.
Caution: Elderly people (aged above 50), people with osteoporosis, heart or lung disease, and people who have been physically inactive for major part of their adulthood should check with a doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Avoid smoking, drug abuse, and excessive alcohol consumption. Stay away from sodas as they are believed to be responsible for bone weakening. Avoid under-nutrition, fad diets and eating disorders.
However, though most people are caught unawares when osteoporosis hits, they can still find respite from pain and correct their posture with ortho supports and braces.
Back pain can strongly impact our daily life and often hinder our routines. Vissco’s Platinum Lumbo-Sacral Corset with Double Strap provides support and reinforces the back muscles. It also helps alleviate lordosis and pelvic anterotation. The corset promotes correct posture and its compression stimulates metabolism. Vissco’s Platinum Corset Brace is also one of the most preferred back supports and maintains the body’s contour while helping ease pain. It’s made with special fabrics and plastic moulding for enhanced comfort and spinal support.
Vissco’s Pelvic Traction Belt is best suited for those with hip pain due to weakening of bones. The belt is often used to alleviate lower back pain, as well as hip and leg pain associated with lower back disorder. It also helps properly align the lower vertebrae and reduce muscle spasms.
When you suffer wrist injury or pain, more often than not you end up being unable to use the entire arm. Vissco’s Adv Wrist Brace provides excellent support to the wrist. The split has its sleeve and silicone padding designed to provide compression and rehabilitation to the joint without hampering thumb and finger movements.
Given a chance, most would choose to live without pain. However due to certain uncontrollable factors some of us invariably fall prey to osteoporosis. That said, it is also possible to manage the discomfort, and find support that helps you get through the day. Explore Vissco’s extensive range of supports and braces for osteoporosis here.