Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 13, 2014 09:02
Even though most of us college students are young and in our early 20s, it is important to think about our health in the long run — especially when it comes to osteoporosis.
The term osteoporosis literally means “porous bone,” and according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “[it] is a disease of progressive bone loss associated with an increased risk of fractures.”
Healthy bone (when looked at under a microscope) looks very similar to a honeycomb. There are tiny holes and spaces everywhere. With people who have osteoporosis however, their holes and spaces are much larger. This means that their bones have lost mass or density and the structure of their bone tissue has become abnormal.
Though osteoporosis can occur at any age, it tends to be more common in older people. This is because at a young age, we are able to create new bone tissue faster than we lose old bone tissue. As we grow older however, it flip-flops and we naturally lose bone mass a lot faster than it is created.
This is a serious issue because with such brittle bones, the possibility of getting a fracture increases. The National Osteoporosis Foundation explains that in serious cases, fractures can even occur from simple actions such as sneezing, coughing or just bumping into furniture.
As stated by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, osteoporosis is such a major health problem that it affects “more than 44 million Americans and contributes to an estimated 2 million bone fractures per year.”
This breaks down to affecting approximately one in every two women and one in every four men older than the age of 50. In just 11 years from now, it is estimated that the number of fractures due to osteoporosis will rise to over 3 million.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “broken bones due to osteoporosis are most likely to occur in the hip, spine and wrist; but other bones can break too.”
A fracture that occurs much easier than expected is the most obvious and most common symptom of this disease. However, the Mayo Clinic explains that back pain, loss of height over time and a stooped posture have also been found to be symptoms of osteoporosis. This is partly why osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease” — people cannot feel their bones getting weaker and therefore do not know they have it until something serious occurs.
Not only is osteoporosis a disease in itself, but eventually, it could even cause some people to experience depression due to the fact that they may not be able to get around as easily or do things they used to enjoy.
Doctors do not currently know the exact medical causes of osteoporosis, but there have been several identified major factors that can lead to this disease. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons state that these include aging, heredity, nutrition and lifestyle, and medications and other illnesses.
As explained previously, with aging, it tends to be the older you are, the more likely you are to develop osteoporosis. In terms of heredity, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says “a family history of fractures; a small, slender body build; fair skin; and Caucasian or Asian ethnicity can increase the risk for osteoporosis.”
People who have poor nutrition, low body weight, a sedentary lifestyle, excessive smoking or alcohol habits and a high steroid consumption can also increase a person’s chance of developing osteoporosis.
Once a person is officially diagnosed using a special skeletal x-ray to detect bone density, there are several treatment options. To prevent osteoporosis, slow its progression and protect yourself from fractures, it is important to consume the right amount of calcium, Vitamin D and to exercise regularly.
Since it is natural for our bodies to lose calcium everyday, it is important to replenish it. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, women and men ages 19-50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day. Dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and milk are excellent sources of calcium. It only takes about three glasses of milk per day to reach this goal.