Osteoporosis is a silent disease characterized by low bone mass or decreased bone strength. This usually happens when there is an imbalance of new bone formation and bone loss.
Any bone can be affected but the fractures in hips and spine are of special concerns as they get the heaviest impact. Hip fracture cases have increased 5 fold in women in the last 30 years.
Bone formation peaks from teenage years till around 20 years old. During these times, bone formation is faster than bone loss. After the peak bone mass, you may start to lose more bone than creating new ones.
Women are more prone to osteoporosis as they loss up to 20% of bone mass 5 to 7 years after menopause. The hormone estrogen protects bones.
Men are also affected but less common than women. Estrogen and male hormone testosterone is important for bone health. Excessive alcohol, smoking or extreme thinness affects these hormones.
According to the recent National Nutrition Survey in 2004, the average daily calcium intake of a Singaporean is 627mg.
Common risk factors of osteoporosis
Low body weight
Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D
Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
Eating too much protein, sodium and caffeine
Having inactive lifestyle
Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroid, testosterone, estrogen levels (men) and certain medications (antiseizure medication and steroids) also are risk factors of osteoporosis.
How to prevent osteoporosis?
Get the daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D: The current dietary recommendation for calcium intake in Singapore is 800mg/day for adults 19-50 year old).
Start exercising today: Regular exercise helps to build stronger and denser bones, and weight-bearing exercises are important for building and maintaining bone density.
Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol: The chemicals in cigarettes are bad for your bone cells and especially in women, smoking can prevent oestrogen from protecting the bones. Excessive drinking can also reduce bone formation.
Reduce caffeine intake: Caffeine in coffee, tea and some soft drinks may decrease calcium absorption. Try to maintain low daily intake of drinks with caffeine
Avoid salty snacks: Eating too much sodium can cause bone loss.
How is Osteoporosis diagnosed?
There are several methods used by your doctor to determine bone density and to assess the risk of bone fractures. These include:
Bone density scan (DXA or DEXA): used to measure bone mineral density.
Bone x-ray: used to determine fractures
CT scan of spine: used to determine fractures
MRI of spine: used to determine fractures
What if I'm diagnosed with osteoporosis?
The best people to guide you along your health journey would be your doctor and dietitian. Look for your healthcare professional for diseases you are suffering from.
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