Osteoporosis or bone decalcification is often associated with signs of aging, but this is absolutely not. Bone breakdown should be in balance with bone build-up, and it is logical that in the elderly bone breakdown occurs slightly faster than bone build-up. But when this process suddenly happens much too quickly, it is called osteoporosis. People over the age of 55 often experience it, but we are increasingly seeing younger people with osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
It is often thought that osteoporosis is a phenomenon of old age, but nothing could be further from the truth. Osteoporosis is a disease that is more common in the elderly, but young people can also be affected. Normally, bone has a balance between breakdown and build-up. The older a person is, the slower the build-up takes place. In osteoporosis, the balance between breakdown and build-up is disturbed: breakdown takes place faster than bone build-up. The result is that holes appear in the bones. The bones become very brittle and vulnerable and break very easily. This is also called osteoporosis: mainly lime or calcium disappears from the bones. Calcium determines bone density: the less calcium, the more brittle the bones become.
Who gets it?
Osteoporosis is common: in the Netherlands alone, 1 in 19 to 20 people suffer from this disease. And that’s quite a lot. The largest group of patients are the elderly from 55 years of age, with women more often than men. The second slightly smaller group are people between 25 and 55 years old. The smallest group, under 25 years of age, rarely encounters osteoporosis. Of the largest group, over 55 years of age, 1 in 3 women will eventually develop osteoporosis. This is less in the mane: 1 in 7. The reason why women get osteoporosis more often has to do with the changing hormone balance in women after menopause.
Symptoms and complaints
Osteoporosis can often be recognized in older people by the shrinking and collapsing of the spine. This causes these people to walk crooked. This should not be confused with normal signs of aging: with osteoporosis this process occurs much faster than normal and often occurs at a younger age. The collapsed vertebrae often cause back pain. The changed posture increases the risk of falling, or you lose your balance much sooner. Internal organs can also become oppressed, causing abdominal cramps or difficulty with digestion. Because the risk of falling is greater, this will often be the first reason for further investigation. People often break a bone during a fall. The risk of bone fractures with osteoporosis is many times higher than normal. Healthy, strong bones don’t break easily, especially when there is a trip or minor fall. With osteoporosis, any wrong movement or blow to the bone can cause a bone fracture.
People who break a bone after the age of 55 as a result of a fall require further examination. People under the age of 55 who regularly suffer bone fractures should also be examined for osteoporosis. More than 70 percent of people with osteoporosis do not know they have this disease. This is because many complaints are vague, minimal or attributed to aging. However, accelerated bone breakdown is not a phenomenon of aging.
Treatment and recovery
In the event of a bone fracture, the fracture must be treated with a plaster cast, a brace or wearing a sling or sling. This depends on the location of the bone fracture. Sometimes surgery is necessary. In addition, osteoporosis must be treated to minimize bone fractures in the future. With proper treatment, the chance of a new bone fracture can be reduced by half.
There is no medicine that can cure osteoporosis, but bone loss can be reduced by taking sufficient vitamin D and calcium. Taking calcium alone has little effect: the body needs vitamin D to allow the calcium to be absorbed by the bones. Vitamin D is produced by the skin itself under the influence of sunlight, but in case of a deficiency, vitamin D tablets can be taken. Calcium is mainly found in dairy products and nuts, but here too, additional supplementation can be taken in the form of tablets if there is a deficiency. The doctor will prescribe the correct dosage. Too much vitamin D can cause damage to the heart and kidneys, too much calcium can cause kidney stones and can impair the absorption of iron and magnesium. In addition, bone structure can be disrupted, resulting in weaker bones.
Exercise is very important for osteoporosis, but also to prevent osteoporosis in the future. Exercise makes the bones stronger. Movement in which gravity plays a role in particular contributes to a better build-up. This includes climbing stairs, push-ups, lifting heavy bags, the time-honored rowing machine, strength training, etc. Less suitable sports include swimming, where gravity plays no role. It is important that the muscles are loaded. In addition, a healthy lifestyle without alcohol and smoking is certainly recommended. Both can slow down bone development considerably. Patients who observe the above points can often reduce their complaints sufficiently.
If this does not help enough, the doctor can prescribe medication. On the one hand, these can be analgesics that reduce pain complaints. On the other hand, medications that help improve bone strength. Bisphosphonates are commonly prescribed medications for osteoporosis that have been proven to work.