A Growing Epidemic in Women: Osteoporosis (fragile Bones)

What is Osteoporosis?

The term Osteoporosis comprises of two words osteo meaning bone and porosis- porous/fragile/weak. It may be defined as a skeletal disorder affecting the bone strength and predisposing it to increased risk of fracture.

In this disorder there is structural degeneration of the bone tissue leading to low bone mass, fragility and increased susceptibility to fractures.

Bony skeleton is like a strong framework for the human body with which various organs and tissues are suspended. The two basic components of bone are collagen protein which forms a soft network and calcium phosphate which imparts strength and hardness to the bone. There is a homeostasis in our bones regarding continuous degeneration of old bone cells with simultaneous building of new ones. Up to the age of 30 the balance between bone degeneration and repair is almost equal and after that amount of bone loss supercedes the bone gain and osteoporosis sets in.

Who is affected by this disorder?

Although Osteoporosis affects all ages and population but the Post Menopausal women are more vulnerable to it. At present 8.2 million people are affected in India and the figures are epidemically growing. One out of every two women and one in eight men over the age of 50 are suffering from it.

What are the Causes/Risk factors?

There are a lot of triggers /risk factors for Osteoporosis as:

§ Advanced age and post menopausal syndrome: women falling under this condition have altered hormone levels particularly estrogen which in turn leads to Osteoporosis

§ Family history of Osteoporosis

§ Irrational and overuse of Steroids (Like in Asthma, Arthritis etc), thyroid hormones and anti epilepsy(fits )drugs

§ Smoking/alcohol/high intake of junk food/cola

§ Thin boned and small farmed Asian women are at higher risk.

§ Indolent life style-no exercise attitude

§ Dietary Deficiency of Calcium and other vitamins & trace elements

How could I know, I have Osteoporosis?

In most of the cases the disease is silent killer-a symptom less disorder. a person may feel fit today but may get fractured tomorrow.

§ The coexisting symptoms are pain in neck/lumbar region i.e. low back ache

§ Deformity of curvature in spine

§ Recurrent fractures (Non traumatic)

§ Loss of height due to deformity in spine, stooping any

What are the laboratory investigations available?

Routine X-Ray can detect the loss in bony mass only when the disease has progressed in advanced stage.

Bone densitometry mainly DEXA (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) is highly effective measure to detect the disorder. It measures the bone mass at hip and spine where Osteoporosis occurs in early stage.

It is very fast painless and accurate test which detects two energy levels and the differences are noted by the computer. The patient under the treatment for Osteoporosis is advised to go through this test yearly to check the progress of the treatment. Moreover this test also measures total fat and lean tissue in body to check the progress of treatment in obese patients.

What does Ayurveda says about Osteoporosis?

Ayurveda which is based upon the concept of Vaat, Pitta and Kapha humors of human body is a holistic therapy. It has enunciated the disease Osteoporosis by name of Asthikshya. Asthi means bone and kshya is loss. According to Ayurveda this disorder is caused by the vitiated Vaata humor and the symptoms are pain in bones, weak nails and teeth, dryness in body, excessive fall of hair, chronic fatigue without any labour and loose joints.

A detailed description of various herbs and formulations which pacify vitiated Vaata and are rich source of Calcium are discussed below.

What are the Preventive measures?

Here are some suggestions:

§ Live an active life style. Exercise daily

§ Running brisk walking, swimming, tennis, cycling, dancing and other weight bearing exercises should be practiced

§ The daily intake of calcium for an adult woman is 1000 mg. So, take adequate quantities of milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables, wheat, maize orange in your diet.

§ Vitamin D which is synthesized in our body through exposure to sun light so, bask for one hour /day

§ Do not overindulge in mental tension

§ Avoid junk food, particularly cola. Refrain from smoking, alcohol etc.

§ Yearly check up for Bone Mass Density is must over 45 years age

§ If you are already suffering from Osteoporosis take good care of your routine activities to prevent the fractures. Use flat slippers avoid high healed shoes avoid slippery floors in bathroom.

In a recent study USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging, Tufts University they found that in women drinking cola was associated with lower bone mineral density at all three hip sites regardless of age, menopaus