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Osteoporosis in the Elderly

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What is it?

A common skeletal disorder, Osteoporosis causes one’s bones to lose their natural strength and be subject to a higher risk of fracturing, and inability to support one’s body weight, or in other words, when bone tissue deteriorate faster than it’s replaced. This disorder is much more rampant in individuals over the age of 50, due to a lower bone mass and bone quality. However, men and women of any age can be diagnosed with it. In fact, over two million Canadians have been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Women at their menopause phase have an increased risk of having this disorder due to their bodies no longer producing the estrogen hormone, which is a major factor that helps to maintain bone strength.

Osteoporosis and Stooping

Osteoporosis and Stooping

 

There are two types of Osteoporosis:

  • Primary Osteoporosis:
    Most common in woman reaching their menopause phase. This type has no ‘direct cause’ or origin, but rather occurs as we age, and rapidly occurs at menopause.
  • Secondary Osteoporosis:
    This type can occur in younger and middle-aged individuals as well as seniors, and is typically caused by use of various medications such as corticosteroids, malnutrition, too much exercise, or chronic illnesses such as anorexia nervosa. This doesn’t necessarily mean exercise is bad, but some woman who exercise excessively have a chance of losing their menstrual cycle, which causes their ovaries to stop the normal production of estrogen.

Symptoms

Osteoporotic fractures often occur in the forearm, hip, or vertebrae, but it can happen to any bone structure including the pelvis, ribs, etc. Vertebrae fractures also lead to back pain, decrease in height, and possibly functional impairment, meaning the inability to function in a specific part of the body. However, other than fractures and chronic back pains, osteoporosis has no directly noticeable symptoms. The back pains can happen standing still, and worsen when performing everyday activities, or even sneezing and coughing.

Are you at a Higher Risk of getting Osteoporosis?

As mentioned before, the drop in estrogen levels during menopause in women is a huge risk factor leading to osteoporosis, but there are other risk factors, some controllable, and others not.
These include:
Lack of exercise (Less active bones lead to weaker bone quality, and faster bone deterioration)
Low calcium and Vitamin D levels (Both calcium and Vitamin D are vital to the body’s maintaining of bone strength and health)
Family History (Osteoporosis can run in families, and if your family or relatives have a history of it, you have an increased risk as well)
Body Type (Thin-boned and skinny individuals, or those who have had a vertebrae fracture in the past are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with osteoporosis)

 

Prevention and Treatment

Like with most common disorders that happen with age, leading an active and healthy lifestyle is an excellent way to prevent Osteoporosis. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin D and calcium are great ways to counteract deteriorating bone quality as we age, because our bones are made up of calcium and influenced by vitamin D levels. It is recommended to check up with your doctor frequently as you reach your senior years, especially if your feel more frequent back pain daily.

Some treatment options that your doctor can recommend are:

Replacement Testosterone (Used in men when osteoporosis is caused by hypogonadism)
-Bisphosphonates
(Medication that slows down bone breakdown)
-Denosumab
(Injection that lowers risk of fracture and strengthens bones)
-Hormone Replacement Therapies
(For women who reached menopause and lack estrogen)
-Parathyroid Hormone Analogues
(Helps body build bone faster than it deteriorates, and treats severe cases of osteoporosis)
-Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
(Used in prevention and treatment for women)


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