Wednesday, 21 May 2014
As people grow older, they begin to lose bone and the bones become brittle. Women lose bone more rapidly than men, particularly in the 5-10 years after menopause. Osteoporosis which is a thinning of the bones has become a major health problem.
Our bones are not static, they are dynamic, constantly being made, re-modeled and destroyed by special bone cells. Up to about the age of 25, we make more bones than we lose, so our bones become stronger and thicker. There are two kinds of bone. The spine, pelvic bones and jaw, and the ends of long bones are formed of an interlocking of tiny spicules of bone-the so called spongy bone, covered by a thin shell, the cortex. The long bones in our body is different. They have a thick, compact outer layer and a hollow inside usually filled with bone marrow. The bones are strong and rigid because calcium impregnates them.
From about the age of 25, no new bone is added and in women from the age of 45, bone begins to be lost. At first the loss is slow but with menopause the rate of loss increases. This goes on for between five and ten years. In these years, more bone is lost from the long bones so that fractures of the wrist and hips are most likely to occur. Bone is also being lost slowly from the spongy bones of the spine and small fractures causing backache may occur.
The larger the' bone bank' before the loss starts, the less is the risk of osteoporosis. This means that calcium intake in the form of food should be encouraged in young women, who should take in 800-1000mg of calcium each day.
Men are largely spared the effects of this bone loss, first, because they have a larger bone mass to start with, and second because they produce the male sex hormone, testosterone which helps to prevent bone loss.
The female sex hormone, oestrogen also helps to prevent bone loss but after the menopause, only a little oestrogen is produced. This is the reason for the greater bone loss which occurs in the years just after the menopause.
After the age of 70, the pattern of bone loss alters and women and men lose bone at a similar rate. Slowly the strength of the bone is reduced. Fractures of the hips become more common and in some people, one or more of the vertebrae which make up the spine may collapse. Backache may become a problem and some women develop a hump.
HOW TO PREVENT OSTEOPOROSIS
1. Women should take oestrogen and progestogen for the first 5-10 years after menopause.
2. Increase calcium intake either in foods or as calcium tablets taken daily.
3.Stop tobacco smoking.
4. Taking regular exercise.