What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens your bones.
It results from slowed bone growth and faster bone loss. As you age, you grow new bone tissue at a slower rate. Women’s bones break down at a higher rate after menopause.
This combination of slow bone growth plus faster bone loss results in osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis also has an enormous impact on public health. Fractures related to osteoporosis result in more days in the hospital than breast cancer. Of those who suffer hip fractures, 60% still require help a year later.
Symptoms of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis doesn’t usually provide you with any obvious symptoms. Often your first symptom is a broken bone. A loss of your height or your spine curving can also be signs.
You should see your doctor if you are shorter than the height you used to be or if you notice a curvature of your upper back.
Causes of osteoporosis
Besides being older and female, other factors can increase your risk of osteoporosis. These include:
- Having a small frame
- Being a smoker
- Having a family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
- Having had early menopause or surgery to remove your ovaries at an early age
- Having taken certain medications
- Having a sedentary lifestyle or an extended period of bed rest
- Being deficient in calcium or vitamin D at any time during your life
Who gets osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is primarily a disease that affects older folks. There is a rare type of the illness that affects juveniles.
Both men and women can get osteoporosis. It typically affects women at a much earlier age than men.
Men have heavier bones and they usually do not experience the sudden drop in hormones that women do. After about age 65, men lose bone at the same rate as women.
Exercises for osteoporosis
Your bones are always growing and changing. After the age of 30, you lose more bone than you build. Exercise is one way of encouraging your body to build new bone tissue.
Exercise stresses the bones in two ways.
The first type is high impact. Think about how hard your feet hit the ground when you run. High-impact exercises trigger more bone growth but are not appropriate for all ages and fitness levels. Low-impact exercises work, too, just not as quickly.
The second type of stress occurs when muscles and connective tissue pull on your bones. Simple movement causes some internal stress on your bones. Heavier exercise such as weight lifting also stresses your bones heavily, and will cause more bone growth.
Here are some osteoporosis exercises to consider.
Running, jogging, dancing, and step aerobics are examples of high-impact exercise. This is the best type for increasing bone density. These exercises increase bone strength in the neck of your femur. This provides you with a lower risk of hip fracture.
High-impact exercises are not appropriate for everyone and may not be appropriate for postmenopausal women.
Those who can't do high-impact exercise will benefit from low-impact exercise. Walking is the low-impact exercise that most authorities recommend. Stair-climbing is another low-impact exercise.
Sometimes called resistance training, strength training involves resisting gravity with movement.
The best-known form of strength training involves weights or weight machines, but you can also use resistance bands or even your own bodyweight.
Doctors often recommend water exercise for older adults because it is easier on the joints and because the risk of injury is low. It does not have as great of an effect as high- or low-impact exercises since the water supports the weight of the body.
Water-based exercise can have a positive and measurable impact on your bone density. The effort of overcoming water resistance strengthens your muscles. Those muscles put pressure on your bones, causing growth.
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Prognosis and outlook for osteoporosis
Check with your doctor
Women over the age of 65 and most men over 70 should have a test, and so should younger individuals who are at high risk.
Get your exercise plan approved
It is always a good idea to see your doctor before you begin an exercise program.
Your doctor can advise you about the best osteoporosis exercises. Exercises that require bending and twisting may not be appropriate for you.
Learn about other treatment for osteoporosis
Your doctor can also check to be sure that you are getting adequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet. They can recommend supplements if you are not. Your doctor may also recommend a medication for osteoporosis.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Harvard Health Publishing: "Effective exercises for osteoporosis."
International Osteoporosis Foundation: "What Is Osteoporosis?"
National Institute on Aging: "Osteoporosis."
National Osteoporosis Foundation: "Bone Density Scan/Testing."
National Osteoporosis Foundation: "What is Osteoporosis and What Causes It?"
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center: "Osteoporosis."
Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine: "Effects of water-based exercise on bone health of middle-aged and older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis."
Physical Therapy: "Effectiveness of Exercise for Managing Osteoporosis in Women Postmenopause."
Postgraduate Medical Journal: "Osteoporosis and exercise."
University of Wisconsin Health: "How Exercise Influences Bone Health."
Victoria State Government Better Health Channel: "Osteoarthritis in men."
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