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Women more prone to osteoporosis: Understanding why women face higher risk of poor bone health


Women more prone to osteoporosis: Understanding why women face higher risk of poor bone health

Doctors say osteoporosis affects more women than men due to a series of biological factors including accelerated bone loss after menopause

Denosumab is a new class of drugs for osteoporosis treatment which helps slow down the natural rate at which bones break down and prevents risk of fractures

As we age, our bodies increasingly display signs of wear and tear. Be it eyes, internal organs, joints or bones, the process aging affects everyone. However, when it comes to bone loss, it is women who are at a higher risk. Doctors say a series of biological factors such as accelerated bone loss after menopause makes women more prone to osteoporosis – the disease of weak bones that causes fractures and disability in old age.

“Bone mass or density is lost as we age. This happens in both men and women but it especially aggravates in women after menopause. The bones lose calcium, vitamin D and other minerals and start losing their density. In extreme cases they become abnormally porous and fragile and extremely susceptible to fractures. In women estrogen (a hormone) is important in maintaining bone density. When estrogen levels drop after menopause, the loss of bone density accelerates. Deficiency of calcium and vitamin D can aggravate osteoporosis. At the same time, petite and thin women have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis since they already have less bone to lose,” said Dr.Kaushal Malhan Director orthopedic surgery, Fortis Mulund

Osteoporosis or the extreme thinning of bones makes an individual extremely prone to debilitating and disabling fractures. While supplementing with calcium and vitamin D remains the first line of treatment for bone loss, a new class of drugs Denosumab further helps slow down the natural rate at which bones break down and prevents risk of fractures.

Apart from age, the onset of osteoporosis is associated with a series of risk factors including poor nutrition and diet low of calcium and vitamin D, smoking, drinking, loss of menstrual period in young women also known as amenorrhea, genetic risk as well as body type. Women start with lower bone density than their male peers and they lose bone mass more quickly as they age, which leads to higher incidence of osteoporosis.

“The achievement of peak bone mass is important to bone health, and plays a vital part in preventing osteoporosis and subsequent fractures in later years. Peak bone mass is achieved by the age of 30. Women must therefore be very cautious about their bone health right from young age. People with poor bone health are prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements. Denosumab is a new class of drugs that is prescribed to reduce the rate of bone loss in people with osteoporosis. It is a monoclonal antibody given through a six monthly injection that works by blocking a protein and suppressing the cells that break own bone,” added Dr.Kaushal Malhan Director orthopedic surgery, Fortis Mulund

Other factors that help build healthy bones include regular exercise, particularly weight bearing exercises. Bone being a living tissues, much like muscles responds positively to exercise.

Incidence of osteoporosis is high in India. Increasing life expectancy and unhealthy lifestyles contribute to the rising incidence of the disease. A study published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research found that over 69% of people in Delhi between 38 and 68 years of age suffer from bone loss. The study conducted on around 223 men and 222 women found that around 8.99% patients were suffering from osteoporosis and 59.55% had osteopenia. In fact, in India osteoporotic fractures may be occurring at a younger age than in the West. Recent research and studies have pointed out to the widespread vitamin D deficiency across India. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is a major factor in the poor bone health of Indians. Poor sunlight exposure and a vitamin D-deficient diet are some obvious causes.

The bad news is that osteoporosis will be present in human body without any symptoms for decades and it doesn't cause symptoms until the bones start fracturing. Moreover, some osteoporotic fractures may escape detection for years when they do not cause symptoms. Hence, the patients may not be aware of their osteoporosis problem until they suffer a painful fracture. Depending on the location of fracture the symptoms differ but the usual symptom is pain and disability.

Prevention

The age old adage that prevention is better than cure holds 100 per cent in the case of osteoporosis. In fact, the only way to prevent osteoporosis is to start working with your bones when they are still young. Do not let bone loss to set in early by faulty practices.

Eat calcium rich foods such as dairy products, legumes, lentils etc
Ensure adequate exposure to the sun for vitamin D
Get a routine bone density check-up after the age of 35
Exercise daily to strengthen the bone
Quit smoking and alcohol

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