How do we know if our bones are healthy? We can’t see them like we can see our other body parts, or hear them like our heart and lungs. Despite not having many outward symptoms of having unhealthy bones there are some signs of osteoporosis that you should look out for.
Besides obvious indicators such as having a family history of osteoporosis, our bodies give subtle warnings that can reveal a lot about the health of your bones and being able to identify them early on could save you from extra treatment needed down the line.
Let’s take a look at some symptoms that may indicate how healthy your bones are and how you can change your lifestyle to keep them healthy.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis one of the most common diseases in Australia and affects over 1 million people. The condition causes the bones to become brittle and more likely to fracture due to a lack of minerals. People of all ages can be affected by osteoporosis, but older people are at a higher risk because their bones tend to be weaker in general.
Fractures from osteoporosis can lead to chronic pain, a loss of independence, lack of mobility and premature death so finding a way to keep your bones healthy should be a top priority.
What are the signs of osteoporosis?
In many cases, a dentist is the first person to spot signs of osteoporosis. Research suggests that if you are having significant bone loss in your jaw that it could be a sign of bone loss in other areas of your body. It’s worth taking a look inside your mouth and around your teeth to see if you can notice any changes to your gum line.
Chipped or brittle nails
While chipping a nail can be annoying if it is happening frequently, it could be a sign that your bones may also brittle. It’s likely that those who have low levels of collagen or calcium in their nails don’t have enough in their bones either.
Have you started to notice that you cannot turn the doorknob easily or it has become more difficult to push yourself up from a seated position? The bad news is that your bones could be to blame. The strength of your handgrip and the density of the bones in your arms, hips and spine are directly related.
The hips, spine and wrists are the most common body parts for a fracture to occur when you have osteoporosis and can even be caused by slight knocks, bending over, lifting items, sneezing or coughing.
Risk factors for developing osteoporosis
Losing bone density is a normal part of aging, but those with osteoporosis lose bone density at a faster rate than those with healthy bones.
Women are at a greater risk of getting osteoporosis because they have smaller bones than men and lose bone faster than men due to hormonal changes that occur after menopause.
While Hispanic and African women are also at risk of developing osteoporosis, Asian and Caucasian women are more likely to develop osteoporosis.
There is significant evidence to show that those who have a family member with osteoporosis are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis.
If your body has too little calcium your chance of getting osteoporosis is significantly increased. A deficiency in vitamin D can also increase your risk of getting the condition. Vitamin D is essential for the body because it helps absorb the calcium in your diet.
Failure to exercise or being inactive for prolonged periods of time increases your chances of getting osteoporosis. Both muscles and bones become stronger with regular exercise and can help keep you healthy.
Keeping a healthy body weight plays a big role in keeping your bones healthy. Having a low body weight means you have less muscle and fat to protect the bones if you fall.
What can I do to keep my bones healthy?
Increase calcium intake
The easiest step you can take to prevent osteoporosis is increasing your intake of calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, salmon, cheese, almonds and broccoli. You should also speak to a medical professional about taking a calcium supplement as well as vitamin D to help absorb it.
Try to exercise regularly to keep your bones as strong as possible. As we age we lose both bone and muscle mass faster so exercise becomes even more important. In addition to regular physical activity and weight-bearing, you should also do activities that improve coordination, posture and muscle strength.
Avoid smoking and heavy drinking
Many of the health problems caused by tobacco use are well known – it can cause heart disease, cancer and lung disease. Additionally, smoking has been identified as having a detrimental effect on bone density. Drinking alcohol at an intake of greater than 3 ounces per day has been shown to increase bone loss due to a lack of calcium in the body.
How is osteoporosis diagnosed and treated?
To diagnose osteoporosis and determine a treatment plan, your doctor will most likely order a bone density scan to measure your bone density by X-ray. The test is painless and non-intrusive; all you need to do is lie on a padded table while the scanner passes over your body.
Your treatment plan will be based on the severity of your condition and the likelihood of breaking a bone based on the bone density test. If you are at a low risk, treatment usually includes medication and reducing risk factors.
Have you been diagnosed with Osteoporosis?
ConnectAbility is available to offer support and information for those living with disabilities such as osteoporosis. We can assist with access to community-based resources, aged care support, facilities, disability support and family counselling.