OSTEOPOROSIS

OSTEOPOROSIS(تَصلَب العظام ۔ ہَڈّی کی بَڑھَتی ہُوئی سَختی)

The BRITTLE TRUTH

Osteoporosis can happen to anyone. T(;e good” news is that lifetime of proper nutrition and exercise helps ensure that silent disease does not sneak up on you. T.F. Pacis

urdu totkay healthA piece of paper angled just so can slice right through the skin of your hand and make you wince at the sting of a paper cut. A tiny dust particle that enters your eye can make you teary-eyed. Is the human body that delicate? Absolutely so; and yet the body is also incredibly strong. Did you know that it can take the weight of up to six American professional football players (all 1800 pounds of them) to break a thighbone? Human bones have the breaking strength of cast iron-meaning that breaking a bone would require as much pressure as it would take to break a cast iron pan.

Amazingly all that strength is no match for osteoporosis. This crippling disease makes bones so brittle that a slight fall can break a bone. In its advanced stages a child’s hug or even a sneeze can result in multiple breaks. Ironically, for all the Hardship it brings, osteoporosis is called the silent disease because until a bone fracture occurs, its victims are largely unaware of their condition. Early diagnosis of the disease is difficult precisely because there are no symptoms. “By the time patients come to us complaining of back and other pains, it’s already too late. Osteoporosis has already progressed and a fracture already exists,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Angelo Ochoa.

In the U.S., osteoporosis is responsible for an estimated 1.5 million bone fractures each year. The World Congress on Osteoporosis estimates that in the next 50 years, Europealone will experience a 100 percent increase in the incidence of osteoporosis, despite active information campaigns. And Asian, with our low dietary intake of calcium, are at greater risk for the disease. In fact, it has been predicted that by 2050, over half of crippling or even ife-threatening hip fractures will be among Asians.
UNDERSTANDING OUR BONES

Our bodies are supported by more than 200 bones. All these bones are living structures that go through the normal process of breakdown and new growth. This is known as bone remodeling. In the early years of a person’s life, more “new bone” grows than breaks down. By the time a person reaches his mid-20s to mid-30s, his bones are as strong and as dense as they will ever be. After early adulthood, however, the process is reversed so that more bone breaks down than is rebuilt. Osteoporosis develops when too much bone is lost through breakdown.

Although the disease can and does develop in older men, post-menopausal women are four times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis because of a deficiency in the hormone called estrogen. Estrogen, which is produced in the ovaries, is an important factor in reducing bone loss. When women hit menopause, their bodies stop producing estrogen and bone loss occurs at a dramatic rate. In fact, during the first five years of menopause, women can lose up to 50 percent of all bone minerals they built up over their lifetime.

Osteoporosis leaves bones so weak and fragile that bone fractures can occur even from the slightest bumps and most minor falls. Sometimes, the sheer weight of the upper body can cause vertebral osteoporosis fractures that then lead to height loss and extreme back curvatures. Hip and vertebral osteoporosis fractures are the most common and most expensive injuries to treat. They can be very painful and recuperation from them is a long process. According to physical therapist “Natalie Yu, rehabilitating osteoporosis patients with major fractures takes twice as long as healthy individuals. This means it could take up to six months (sometimes even longer) for an osteoporosis individual to recuperate. Worse yet, if multiple fractures occur, permanent disability is possible.

EARLY PREVENTION

While it is true that osteoporosis develops later in life, this should not lull any young person into complacency. In fact, among Asians – whose diets are often calcium deficient – bone loss can happen as early as in the 20s. Guarding against the possibility of osteoporosis takes a lifetime’s worth of proper nutrition and exercise. Naturally, preventive routines differ in focus through various age periods.

From infancy to adulthood, the focus is on building up bone mass so that bones are as strong and dense as possible. The idea is to fortify the bone structures so that even when the inevitable wave of bone loss occurs, there are enough reserve tissues to keep the bones in a healthy condition. Calcium and other minerals are primarily responsible for the hardness of bones. This is why a calcium-rich diet is touted as the best preventive remedy to osteoporosis.

Calcium-rich foods should comprise much of our diet to give the body all the calcium it possibly needs. Dr. Ochoa, however, warns against stockpiling calcium in our bodies. The principle of more calcium for healthier bones works only to the point that the body can still use the calcium. Beyond that point, a person runs the risk of hypocalcaemia or calcium overdose a condition that has its own set of problems. ‘Stick to the required daily allowance of calcium for your age group. It is sufficient,” he says. Calcium is most readily found in milk products but is not limited to such foods. Broccoli, collards, tofu, salmon, canned sardines packed with their bones, and calcium fortified orange juice do just as well.

Sometimes, doctors reco­mmend calcium supplements to augment calcium intake.

Vitamin D is also critical because it helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk and egg products and is also produced by our skin when it is exposed to sunlight. A daily routine of ten minutes under the sun does the job. Finally, regular exercise is necessary for strengthening the skeletal structure. Weight bearing exercises such as aerobics, walking, jogging, and taboo are best suited for this purpose.

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