Global Health Asia-Pacific Issue 2 | 2023 - Page 52


Silent but deadly : Osteoporosis affects millions who don ’ t know they have it

But health screening and lifestyle changes can prevent bone deterioration
Bone injuries due to osteoporosis can occur even during simple routine activities .

Osteoporosis is a long-term chronic disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle , making them fragile and easy to break . Over time , patients experience a progressive loss of bone mineral density , diminishing bone tissue , and compromised bone strength . Affecting more than 200 million people worldwide , osteoporosis is widely considered a “ silent disease ” as it develops slowly over many years and its symptoms are usually only seen when a traumatic event , such as a fall or impact or even a cough , causes a bone to break or fracture .

“ When you have decreased bone mass , the bone strength becomes less . This will cause bones to break ; only then does the symptom manifest itself ,” Dato ’ Dr Badrul Shah Badaruddin , an orthopaedic surgeon at the ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital in Malaysia , told �lobal �ealth �sia��aci�c .
Bone injuries due to osteoporosis can occur even during simple routine activities . “ When the bone is the pillar that carries our weight , it is prone to damage in the event of weakened bone integrity . Even a trivial fall can risk producing fracture ,” he explained .
Fractures are generally attributed to osteoporosis , ranging from hairline cracks to serious breaking of the bone into multiple pieces . The fracture ’ s severity depends on its location , degree of displacement , and surrounding soft tissue damage . Symptoms of a fracture can include pain , swelling , bruising , and difficulty using the affected limb or joint .
Hormonal imbalance can also increase risks Osteoporosis is commonly linked to a deficiency in two hormones , testosterone and oestrogen , in both males and females . Low levels , especially among women experiencing post-menopause , will cause low vitamin D activation and calcium absorption . “ These hormones function in regulating vitamin D and calcium distribution in the bones . Both vitamin D and calcium are essential nutrients in maintaining bone health ,” Dr Badrul said , noting that low levels would “ lead to reduced mineral density and bone mass which ultimately causes osteoporosis .”
While women are at risk of developing osteoporosis after experiencing menopause , men are likely to develop it later due to reduced testosterone production . “ There are other conditions that can cause low testosterone levels , such as infection of the hypothalamus or pituitary gland that regulates testosterone production ,” Dr Badrul said .
Unhealthy lifestyles also frequently increase the risk of osteoporosis . “ Excessive alcohol consumption and smoking disrupt the absorption of vitamin D and calcium from the gut to the bones . High caffeine uptake will lead to loss of calcium through urine discharge due to its diuretic properties ,” he said . Lack of exercise can also reduce the circulation of calcium and vitamin D throughout the body , potentially weakening bones that can progress to osteoporosis .
Osteoporosis develops slowly over many years
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