Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue, causing bones to become thin and weak. This leads to increased risk of fracture, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist.
When bones are severely weakened by osteoporosis, even simple movements such as bending over and picking up a heavy bag of groceries can cause fractures. Osteoporosis affects as many as 1.4 million Canadians, the majority of whom are women and seniors.
Osteoporosis is called “the silent thief” because it gradually robs bones of strength over time. Often there is no symptom until a fracture occurs. A bone mineral density test is the most accurate test for diagnosing osteoporosis.
Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis as they age, because their bones are 20 to 30 percent less dense than men’s bones. For women after menopause, lowered estrogen levels are a major factor in osteoporosis development.
To prevent the development of osteoporosis, a diet that includes calcium-rich foods such as milk, green vegetables, calcium-enriched orange juice or cereals, and calcium supplements is recommended. Talk to your doctor to see if Vitamin D and calcium supplements are recommended. Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can help prevent the reduction of bone mass. Regular exercise, including a combination of aerobic and weight-bearing exercises, can help maintain bone mass. For post-menopausal women, estrogen therapy may help keep calcium in the bones and prevent the onset of osteoporosis.