What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common disease affecting the elderly. It is characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of bone tissue. Affected individuals have weak, porous and brittle bones and are susceptible to bone fractures, particularly in the hip, spine or lower arm, often with only minimal trauma. It is known as “the silent thief”, as there are no symptoms of bone loss until a painful fracture occurs. Osteoporosis becomes more common with age, and fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a joint disease, due to the breakdown of cartilage within the joints and the surrounding bone tissue. Affected individuals suffer from joint swelling, pain and reduced joint motion. Commonly affected joints are in the hands, lower back, hips and knees.
Strong, healthy bones are important for providing structure, anchoring muscles and ligaments, protecting our internal organs and storing essential minerals. From birth until the age of 30, new bone is produced more quickly than old bone is broken down, reaching a peak bone mass at approximately 30 years of age. Bone remodelling continues throughout adulthood, but bone mass slowly decreases, as the old bone removal is quicker than new bone production. Poor bone health, reduced bone growth as a child and greater than normal bone loss as an adult can all contribute towards an increased risk of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
What factors affect bone health?
- Genetic variation explains up to 85% of bone mineral density
- Gender: Females generally have lower bone mass
- Menopause: Decreasing estrogen increases osteoporosis risk
- Testosterone: Lower testosterone results in a lower bone mass
- Ethnicity: Hispanics and African Americans have higher bone mass and reduced osteoporosis risk (compared to Caucasians and Asians)
- Physical activity: Weight-bearing exercises help strengthen bones
- Medications: Long-term use can reduce bone mass (e.g. corticosteroids)
- Nutrition: Reduced calcium and vitamin D uptake results in brittle bones