Did you know that babies are born with 300 bones, but as adults we only have 206. This happens because some of our bones get fused together in our early life. And this is not the only change that our bones go through in our lifetime. Osteoporosis is one such change.
Your bones’ main function is the physical support of your body, but they have many other important functions: storing calcium and other minerals, producing blood cells and assisting the muscles in making you move. When we think of a bone, we think of something static and “dead”, but in fact, bones are very much alive and constantly changing, with minerals being released into our blood stream, bone proteins disintegrating, and bone marrow working hard on producing blood cells. Bone tissue is remodelling all the time: cells called osteoclasts would disintegrate old tissue, while osteoblasts would rebuild new strong bone tissue.
This usually works pretty well when your body is young and you have a good and healthy diet. However, as you grow older, the bone remodelling balance slowly moves towards disintegration, and bones become porous. This is called osteoporosis. Women are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men. The reason for this is the hormonal change that happens to women during menopause – our sex hormones are partly in charge of our bone remodelling. There are certain additional risk factors that can increase the chance of osteoporosis, some of which are smoking, alcohol intake and certain medication.
Is osteoporosis a dangerous condition?
Osteoporosis on its own is not something to be afraid of. The problem is that bones affected by it are much more easily broken, and can break even when a person stumbles and falls while just peacefully walking. This kind of injury is called fragility fracture. The matter is even more concerning knowing that, as we age, we might be taking medication or having other conditions that can affect our balance and cause us to fall more easily.
Fragility fractures occur most often to wrist, hip and spine bones, but can happen in any part of the body. Fragility fractures happen to 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over the age of 50.* This is partly because women are more susceptible to osteoporosis, but also, they have smaller bones and tend to live for longer.
The take home advice: live a healthy life-style to minimise osteoporosis, but also try to avoid falls. Be calmer and don’t take any risky actions, like climbing on a chair to change the light bulb, or run after a bus.
Love Your Bones – Protect Your Future