Did you know that osteoporosis affects almost 1.4 million Canadians? Believe it or not, fractures from this condition are more common than heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer combined.
That’s a big deal because about 28% of women and 37% of men who suffer a hip fracture die within the following year.
In this article, we’ll explore what osteoporosis is and what you can do to build bone strength and reduce the chance of bone fractures.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis—literally meaning “porous bone”—is a disease characterized by a loss of bone mass and density, leaving bones brittle, weak, and more prone to fractures. Patients may also experience height loss or curvature of the spine. Osteoporosis can affect a variety of bones in the body, including the hip, spine, wrist, ribs, pelvis, and upper arm.
Osteoporosis: the silent disease
Osteoporosis can sneak up on you. Known as the “silent thief,” no one can feel their bones weakening, so it is often not until a fracture occurs when a proper diagnosis is made. And because many with a spine fracture don’t even know about it—66% are painless—height loss is another sign that the bones may be weakening.
It’s important not to wait until a bone breaks before diagnosing osteoporosis. If you are over the age of 50, have your height measured annually. Bone density tests can be done to determine an osteoporosis diagnosis. It can also find out if someone has osteopenia, a loss of bone density that is important to address so it doesn’t progress to osteoporosis.
What are the causes of osteoporosis?
There is no single cause for osteoporosis. Inactivity, aging, smoking, alcohol consumption, hormonal changes, and poor dietary habits can all contribute to bone loss.
Long-term use of certain medications can also affect your bones, such as antiseizure medicines, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and steroids (glucocorticoids or corticosteroids).
Additionally, there are a host of diseases and conditions that can lead to bone loss, including cancer, autoimmune, digestive, blood, neurological, and hormonal disorders. It’s important to discuss the possibility of osteoporosis with your healthcare provider if you have of these disorders.
What are the ways to build bone health?
Fortunately, osteoporosis is a preventable disease. Engaging in weight-bearing exercises like lifting weights, jumping rope, jogging, hiking, and climbing stairs can help to maintain healthy bone mass.
Healthy diet choices can also help stave off osteoporosis. Upping your intake of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin D, and protein can help you avoid bone weakness.
Japanese red reishi mushrooms
Osteoporosis is most common for menopausal women, with at least 1 in 3 women experiencing a bone fracture due to osteoporosis in their lifetime. For men, the numbers are 1 in 5.
The gender differential is because women generally have lighter, thinner bones than men to start with. In addition, women tend to live longer, and the rate of bone breakdown starts to surpass bone building by age 40. This means that we have to make efforts to slow the rate of bone loss as we age. In addition, estrogen helps to maintain bone density, so menopause or any time of low hormone levels or no or infrequent menstrual periods can accelerate the progression toward osteoporosis.
Animal studies of Ganoderma lucidum—reishi mushroom—have shown improvement in bone density in females with bone loss. They have demonstrated that reishi both supported estrogen activity (without a substantial effect on the uterus) and improved absorption of minerals related to bone health, such as iron, calcium, and phosphorus.
Your bones support you. Isn’t it time you made sure to support your bones?