Maybe you have heard the Arabic word “Hashasha”? Probably you heard it many times from different women! Hashasha means Osteoporosis. What is Osteoporosis? What are the risk factors? How can we prevent it?
If we divide the word Osteoporosis it gives us a clue to its meaning. “Osteo” means bones
“Porosis” means porous bones, which mean the thinning of the bones.
Osteoporosis, also known as brittle bone disease, is a remarkably common condition. Its spread is increasing by a rate of 10% a year, yet despite this, few people are aware of the damage it can cause. Unfortunately, women who suffer from it are usually unaware what they are suffering from until the damage is done. This is an unnecessary tragedy as the key to prevention is actually very simple.
Usually we think of our bones as solid and static objects. But try thinking of your bones as active dynamic objects for a change, that are undergoing a constant process of growth, repair and change all the time. Each bone has millions and millions of bone cells, which are continuously in the process of being broken down. Old bone is gradually replaced by new bone over time. A bone can take a period of ten years to be completely renewed.
The problem is this process can go wrong. When we are young, healthy bones continue to grow and get stronger and denser, until they reach their peak of strength around the age of 25-30 years. Sadly, after this our bones start to go downhill. Bone cells are still broken down, but they are replaced more slowly than the repair process, leaving bones weaker and more likely to break.
Without taking any precautions, osteoporosis can quickly develop, especially amongst certain people who are particularly vulnerable to it. For example, women after menopause are much more prone to osteoporosis than men, due to loss of a hormone called estrogen. Osteoporosis can occur anywhere in our bodies, but the most frequent places are the wrist, spine, and hip.
What are the risk factors for Osteoporosis?
- Getting older is the major risk factor, especially after menopause.
- A loss of estrogen at menopause
- Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and the ovaries)
- Infrequent periods due to bad eating habits (anorexia) or excessive exercise.
- Overly long use of steroids
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive alcohol drinking
How can I know that I have Osteoporosis?
Unfortunately many people only discover that they have osteoporosis after they break a bone, usually because of a relatively minor accident. It is possible to undergo tests to screen for osteoporosis beforehand. The ideal test for osteoporosis is called a bone density scan and ideally you should undergo this as soon as you start menopause.
How can I prevent Osteoporosis?
Prevention early in life is by far the best way to avoid having problems with brittle bones. If you are still in your teens or early twenties the best precaution is to keep the calcium reserves in your bones body as high as possible. This can be achieved through a calcium rich diet and through regular exercise.
Calcium can be found in many delicious daily foods. Some good sources of calcium include:
- dairy products e.g. milk, butter, yoghurt cheese
- green vegetables
- dried figs
- canned sardines and salmon
- calcium supplements
Women going through the menopause naturally lose calcium. Drinking a milky drink at bedtime will offset this. Few women have enough daily calcium in their regular diet but a good supply of calcium is vital for good health. You should also consider the possibility of taking calcium and Vitamin D supplements with your food. These are extremely helpful for people who are on a limited diet or are housebound. Exposure to the sun is a natural Vitamin D supplement which is free easy to come by in Egypt at this time of year!
If you are in your thirties a combination of a calcium rich diet and regular exercise is the ideal prevention. For example, studies have shown that tennis players have a 30% higher bone density in their serving arm than in their other arm, proving that exercise is highly beneficial.
What kind of exercises can I do to prevent Osteoporosis?
The best exercises that you can do include running, cycling, or just bouncing on a trampoline! Bouncing thirty to fifty times a week, three times weekly will make a big difference to the health of your bones! Simply jumping up and down 50 times every day on a trampoline is a sure way to keep your bones strong and healthy.
How can I build up my bone strength if I am menopausal and have already developed weak bones?
There are many different types of treatment for Osteoporosis. One popular method is hormone replacement therapy, which replaces the loss of important body hormones However, it is important to weigh the nature of the problem carefully before trying hormone therapy, as although it has considerable benefits, it also has some risks especially if it is taken for a long time.
Regular weight bearing exercise, avoiding second-hand smoke and restricting alcohol intake will also be good ways to keep those bone cells in a tip top condition. A recent US/ Chinese study found that passive smoking increases the risk of Osteoporosis three fold.