You might ask, how do our bones get to this state of weakness and thinning?
Here’s the science part: our bones are made up of two types of living tissue, the thick outer shell known as the cortex (cortical bone) and a strong inner honeycomb mesh known as Trabeculae. These enable our bones to be strong, light weight and to some extent flexible. These properties allow our skeleton to support us in our everyday life (thank you, skeleton!) and endure the demands that we impose on our bodies.
During the early and middle part of our lives old bone is broken down (resorption) and new bone is made (formation), so the bones within our bodies remain strong. Bones are at their most dense in our early 20’s. As we get older, resorption (bone breakdown) increases and formation of bone decreases - so as a result, our total bone density declines and our bones become more fragile.
It’s most common to sustain a fracture of the spine, wrist, or hips but depending on the severity of osteoporosis, it can also affect bones that normally shouldn’t fracture - like the femur (thigh bone). Fracturing a bone whilst doing daily routines like getting out of your chair and standing is a sure sign of osteoporosis, and loss of height and highlighted curvature of the spine caused by shattering of bone are also indications.
There are two types of Osteoporosis:
The most common type, where a decrease in oestrogen and an increase in bone resorption combine to make our bones more fragile.
It’s believed that in later life osteoblasts (the cells that form new bone) lose the ability to reform, while the osteoclasts (the cells that absorb bone tissue) keep going without a care in the world.
The interesting thing about osteoporosis is that you may not know that you have it until it’s too late, unless you book yourself in for a Dexa scan. Dexa stands for Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry, and it’s a painless procedure used to measure bone density.
Common factors that increase loss of bone mass and risk of osteoporosis are:
● Low oestrogen (which usually occurs after menopause)
● Low calcium
● Alcohol consumption (more than the required daily intake – easy there Grandma & Grandpa!!)
● Drugs like glucocorticoids, which decrease calcium absorption from the gut
● Physical inactivity
Medical conditions that are prone to contract osteoporosis include:
● Turners Syndrome
● Crohn’s Disease
● Vitamin D Deficiency
● Rheumatoid arthritis
● Low sex hormone levels (testosterone)
● Early menopause (before 45 years)
● Being underweight
And some of us, unfortunately, just inherit it.