OSTEOPOROSIS: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

n this Youtube video and in this health and wellness blog post you will find:

- The definition of osteoporosis

- What are the symptoms of osteoporosis?

- What can cause osteoporosis?

- How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

- Can osteoporosis be treated?

- Treatments for osteoporosis

- Diet and osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a problem that affects the bones, making them more fragile and more susceptible to fracture.

This disease is caused by a reduction in bone mass, which makes the bones more fragile and therefore more easily broken.
Indeed, they can fracture or crack with a simple shock or a small fall, it even happens in some cases that the bone fractures without obvious cause, but this happens very rarely.

It is important to know that bones are made up of a tissue called bone tissue. This tissue is made up of water, collagen fibers, calcium and phosphorus. These two minerals form crystals called hydroxyapatite crystals, which give the bone its hard mass and density.

Thanks to these elements, our bones are solid, hard and have a certain resistance to traction and shocks.

Bone tissue also contains cells called osteoblasts, osteocytes and osteoclasts that have different roles and are regularly renewed.

Contrary to what one might think, bone tissue is a living tissue.

Almost all of the bone mass is produced during childhood and reaches its peak during adolescence. It is during this period of our lives that we build most of our bone capital.

After the age of thirty, this bone capital is not formed as easily and tends to be reduced very gradually with increasing age.

Hence the importance of having an excellent diet during childhood and adolescence. I really insist on this point and on the fact that you have to be very careful with your diet during these periods, even if you are slightly overweight.

Indeed, many teenagers fall into anorexia and limit their food intake, which causes deficiencies. The body does not have the elements that allow it to build strong bones, hence the problems in adulthood.

Dietary restriction is not an effective solution to achieve an ideal physical appearance. The best solution is to have a balanced and varied diet accompanied by regular and adapted physical activity.

The most common fractures caused by osteoporosis are at the neck of the femur, which is the upper part of the femur that joins the pelvis. The femur is the bone in the thigh that runs from the pelvis to the knee.

These fractures can also affect the wrist and the vertebrae (bones of the spinal column at the neck and back levels), in this case, we speak of vertebral compression which can cause very strong pain and result in the appearance of a bump if they are frequent.

Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, but especially women after the menopause, i.e. the end of menstruation, which occurs on average around the age of 50. At this time, the decrease in the level of female sex hormones (estrogens), strongly favors osteoporosis.

The diagnosis of osteoporosis is made by the doctor who will ask for a bone densitometry, this exam allows to observe the density, the bone mass and its degree of demineralization (loss of minerals at the level of different bones of our skeleton). This imaging test is similar to an X-ray. If the bone loss is greater than 25%, then the person has osteoporosis.

The most common symptoms are fractures caused by seemingly harmless impacts and/or a reduction in height of more than 3 cm since adulthood.

It is interesting to know that people who are obese are less affected by osteoporosis. Their fat mass allows them to protect their bones and since their bones have to support an excess weight, this gives them more strength.

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that certain diseases can promote osteoporosis such as diseases that cause hormonal imbalance (hyperthyroidism, reduced testosterone, ...) and gastrointestinal diseases.

Certain treatments can also increase the risk of osteoporosis, such as corticosteroids over a very long period of time (more than 6 months) and antiviral drugs given to fight HIV for example.

The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and lack of physical activity are factors that promote the development of osteoporosis.

It is imperative to know that solutions exist to limit osteoporosis and preserve our bone capital, such as 

- Eating calcium-rich foods, especially from birth until the age of 20. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1 to 1.3 g for adults. This amount can be provided by eating 2 yoghurts a day, 300 g of cottage cheese and 2 glasses of milk.

To see the top 10 foods rich in calcium click here 

I would like to draw your attention to the fact that certain substances present in foods can reduce the absorption of calcium or promote its elimination, such as oxalates, caffeine, phosphoric acid (present in soft drinks), alcohol...

It is therefore preferable to stagger the intake of these foods with calcium-rich foods by 2 hours to allow optimal absorption of calcium by the body.

- Practicing a regular and adapted physical activity, even if it is only 30 minutes of walking per day, to solidify the bones.

Finally, vitamin D, phosphorus and omega-3 are important for the proper absorption of calcium and its fixation in the bones; these elements are found in fatty fish such as salmon, for example.

I would like to make you aware of vitamin D and the importance of taking it regularly and monitoring its level in our bodies. The majority of people who lack this vitamin live in regions with little sunshine, and its intake through food is not sufficient to meet the needs of our body. This is why it is important to check your vitamin D level regularly with a blood test.

For osteoporosis treatments, the first step is to treat the cause (hormonal imbalance, for example) and to strengthen the bone capital by providing calcium, vitamin D, and bisphosphonates such as alendronate or risedronate, which help preserve bone mass.

The latter class of drugs should be taken standing or sitting, with a large glass of water, preferably from the tap, and 30 minutes before a meal.

Indeed, these treatments present a risk of irritation of the digestive tract. Moreover, these treatments require special oral care (check-ups with the dentist before treatment and at least once a year), and a visit to the dentist is imperative as soon as any oral pain appears.

It is also very important to limit the risk of falling by correcting eyesight, protecting smooth and slippery surfaces, treating neuromuscular disorders that can lead to loss of balance and falls, and being very attentive to elderly people who take sleeping pills or tranquilizers.

Dr. Noura Marashi (doctor of pharmacy, health youtuber, creator of the health and well-being application Pharmaquiz)

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