Bones form the basic structure of the body; they enable movement, provide shape and support the body. Bones are living tissues which are constantly broken down and renewed. These tissues rebuild throughout the life, though with age the loss of bone tissue accelerates while the rebuilding of bones slows down considerably. This causes weak bones in a person, which eventually become highly prone to damage and various problems. Weak bones can also be broken very easily, unless a proper diet, good exercise and health recommended lifestyle that promotes strong bones is undertaken.
However, some common types of problems that can accrue because of weak bones are:
Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a medical condition which is defined by highly weak bones that are more likely to break. These bones are common of the hip, spine and wrist but could be of any other body part too. Osteoporosis reduces the bone density to such low levels at even mild stress such as bending over or coughing could cause fracture of the bone. Osteoporosis can affect both men and women; however, it is more likely to impact women, especially that past menopause or above the age of 50 years. There are no typical symptoms of osteoporosis in the early stages, but some common signs include back pain, loss of height, stooped posture, and bones which break more easily.
Osteopenia: This condition is also caused by weak bones like osteoporosis, but of a milder degree. In osteopenia, bone mineral density is low but is not as low as osteoporosis but if untreated, the disease can develop aggressively and cause osteoporosis. Risk of bone fracture increases with a decreasing level of bone mineral density. Osteopenia can be aggravated if the body does not receive enough calcium and Vitamin D or due to smoking, alcohol, certain medications, low-physical activity, etc. The treatment and symptoms of osteopenia are similar to those of osteoporosis.
Osteomalacia: This condition is similar to osteoporosis, but is caused due to prolonged and intense deficiency of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very critical for absorption of calcium into the bloodstream from the gut. Low levels of Vitamin D do not provide enough calcium for rebuilding the skeleton, which causes poor bones like osteoporosis. Some symptoms include bone and muscle pain, and in severe cases fracture.
Osteopetrosis: In this problem, the bones become too dense which does not imply they are strong, instead dense bones cause weakened structures which are more prone to fracture. This weak bone condition can also impact the marrow inside the bones, ultimately compromising the body’s ability to fight infection, carry oxygen, and control bleeding. For treatment, medication, supplements, hormone therapy, physical therapy, and in some cases, surgery is recommended.
Paget’s Disease: In this medical condition, a part of the skeleton or mainly one bone is affected through increased and irregular remodelling. The affected bone becomes thick but extremely fragile and can lead to a fracture even with the slightest pressure and stress. Symptoms include pain in the affected bone or pain due to compression of surrounding nerves. The condition has no definitive cause, while treatment includes pain management and certain directed medications. In some cases, corrective surgeries are also used to treat the problem.
Prevention of weak bone problems
Weak bones can be caused due to multiple factors, some of which such as age cannot be controlled. However, some simple steps and modifications can be used to prevent weak bone problems.
Adopting a high-calcium diet: Calcium forms the basic essence of bones and helps to strengthen them. Hence, it is very helpful in preventing problems arising out of weak bones. On a normal day, an adult should intake between 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium. There are many calcium-rich foods, which can be included in the diet such as, milk, tofu, kale, broccoli, yoghurt, fortified cereals, juice, almond milk, salmon, soy, beans, etc. In many cases, the doctor will also recommend calcium supplements for patients with bone fractures.
Intaking more Vitamin-D: Vitamin D is required by the body to absorb calcium and use it to provide good health to the bones. It helps to rebuild bone strength by supplying the required minerals. Vitamin D is present in the sun rays, while it is also naturally found in some foods including egg yolks, fatty fish, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, swordfish, milk or orange juice. Generally, adults should ideally intake 600 IU of Vitamin D per day, and for people aged 70 years or above, the intake should be at least 800 IU.
Engaging in physical exercise: Physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight helps greatly to prevent weakening of bones. Recommended or balanced physical exercise during childhood and in later years helps to increase bone density and strength. People, who engage in exercise while young, achieve their peak bone density which results in bone strength and solidness. By achieving peak bone density at a young age, the chances of bone loss or weakened bones due to osteoporosis are high minimised. Weight-bearing exercises which work against gravity such as walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, etc. helps to build bone resistance. For people who are suffering from weak bone problems, preventive exercises should be practised only after seeking a medical recommendation.
Quitting smoking: Smoking increases the chances of bone weakening and is very bad for overall health since it can cause lung and heart diseases. Especially, for women who smoke, the levels of estrogens are lower in comparison to those who do no not. Lower estrogens levels result in higher bone loss. Also, women who engage in the smoking experience and early menopause, which also triggers bone loss eventually. Smoking causes the body to absorb less calcium, which is very vital for good bone health. Hence, to prevent weakening of bones, one must quit smoking.
Limiting alcohol consumption: People who engage in regular consumption of alcohol about 2-3 glasses, are at more risk of developing weak bone problems. Heavy drinking can trigger more bone loss and can impact balance which could cause fracture or stress on the bones.
Overall, weak bone problems can be prevented provided precautionary measures are adopted early on in life. For adults, however, treatment is the only method to cure weak problems and manage symptoms.