Affecting as many as 2 million Canadians and 44 million Americans, osteoporosis is a condition that causes the quality and the density of your bones and bone tissue to deteriorate over time, leading to an increased risk of bone fractures and breaks. The most common injuries that are related to osteoporosis include the shoulders, spine, hips, and wrists.
While there is no known cause of osteoporosis, there are certain factors that put you at risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who are over the age of 50 are at a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis than those under the age of 50. It is also more likely to affect females than it is males, though it certainly affects both genders. Having a low body weight as well as a past history of fractures can also put you at risk.
Aside from osteoporosis, certain medical conditions can also put you at risk of falls and/or fractures. For example, rheumatological conditions – such as rheumatoid arthritis – a disease that causes the joints to become inflamed and painful, as well as diseases that are associated with Vitamin D deficiency, including chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, malabsorption syndrome, as well as certain neurological conditions due to the increased risk of falls.
Whenever Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, BC, suspects that a patient might have osteoporosis, he will send them for a scan that is able to measure their bone mineral density. The bones that are most commonly looked at during this scan are the bones in the lower spine, thighbone, and forearm, as well as the bones in your heels, wrists and fingers. During a bone density scan you are exposed to very little radiation, and the test itself can last as little as 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
To reduce the risk of osteoporosis or to minimize its effects, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends that patients make sure they’re getting enough Vitamin D, calcium and protein. It’s important to try and get these from food sources. However, if you are unable to do so, Vitamin D and calcium come in supplements that are readily available at any pharmacy or drug store. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends that patients get regular exercise, as physical activity can help strengthen the bones and muscles. You should also avoid smoking and alcohol, as these habits can not only increase your risk of osteoporosis, but also increase the risk of falls.
You can find much more information on Osteoporosis can be found by visiting the Osteoporosis Canada website at osteoporosis.ca. Additional information can also be found by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter as well as by using the hashtag #OsteoporosisMonth.