Osteoporosis is four times more likely to occur in women than men. Two hundred million people across the world have been diagnosed with the disease. Statistically, this means that approximately 160 million women have a higher risk of sudden and unexpected bone fractures. Hence, it’s worth noting that osteoporosis symptoms are rare but can occur in some people. Here are the notable signs and risk factors of osteoporosis and different ways to manage the condition in women.
Identifying the Symptoms and Risk Factors of Osteoporosis
Dubbed the ‘silent’ disease, osteoporosis doesn’t typically come with symptoms. You may not even know you have it until a bone breaks. However, height loss, bone fractures, lower back pain, or a change in posture can present in certain people. Specifically, bone fractures will usually occur in the hip, wrists or spinal vertebrae.
Women who are in this stage of life have the greatest risk of developing the disease. This can be attributed to slower production of oestrogen – the hormone that has protective effects against excessive bone loss – during the first ten years after menopause.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) suggests that bone health relates closely to kidney function. “A strong kidney will ensure healthy bones. As we age, kidney function will start to decline inevitably and bone problems like osteoporosis will rise”, explains Eu Yan Sang physician Ng Qing Xiang.
Diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions
Health disorders that link to hormone level irregularities can put you at risk of the disease. These include thyroid issues, celiac disease, or multiple myeloma. Additionally, bariatric surgery, an organ transplant, and hormone treatment for breast or prostate cancer can increase your susceptibility
Meanwhile, the use of steroids or seizure medications can also damage your bones and lead to osteoporosis. To assess your risk for osteoporosis, you will require a bone density or DEXA scan. Using low dose X-rays, it reveals how dense (or strong) your bones are. Doctors recommend this scan for women over 65 and men over 70, or if you have had a broken bone or are suffering from arthritis.
Your daily practices have a direct effect on your risk of osteoporosis. For example, an inadequate daily intake of calcium or vitamin D-rich foods, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa can make you prone to the disease.
A lack of physical activity and the consumption of two or more alcoholic beverages a day are also causative factors of osteoporosis. Tobacco use, meanwhile, can aggravate your vulnerability to bone fractures.
Steps You Can Take to Manage Osteoporosis Symptoms
A lifestyle change can help prevent osteoporosis. Start by getting enough calcium daily – anchovies, sardines, dairy products, or soy-based foods can hit your daily recommended intake. Adults aged between 19 to 50 need 800mg of calcium, while adults over 50 need 1000mg.
Regular exercise can also help prevent falls by improving balance and strengthening your muscles. You should also steer clear of tobacco use and the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Though, if your bone density shows T-scores of -2.5 or lower, a physician will prescribe therapy to reduce your risk of fractures. They may also use the World Health Organization’s (WHO) fracture risk assessment tool (FRAX) to determine if you qualify for treatment.
You can also choose to use TCM conjunctively to strengthen your bones and enhance calcium absorption.
Take prescription medications
Oestrogen and raloxifene – a selective oestrogen receptor modulator – will likely be recommended to treat menopause symptoms in younger women.
The use of an anabolic agent like romososumab-aqqg is suitable for post-menopausal women who have a fracture risk. The medication work to stimulate new bone formations and decreases bone breakdown. Teriparatide and Abaloparatide injections can boost parathyroid hormone levels in the body. These hormones are crucial for keeping your bones healthy by helping the body maintain adequate calcium stores in the bloodstream.
Consume herbal ingredients
A TCM practitioner will generally suggest using herbal ingredients to help treat osteoporosis. The treatment aim would be to strengthen the kidney and improve blood and qi (vital energy) circulation.
“There are some common herbs used to treat people with osteoporosis patients like Fructus psoraleae (Bu Gu Zhi, 补骨脂), Rhizoma drynariae (Gu Sui Bu, 骨碎補), and Eucommia bark (Du Zhong, 杜仲). These herbs aid kidney function, thus helping to strengthen the bones”, says physician Ng.
You can also consume black-coloured foods – black chicken, black beans, black sesame seeds or fleece flower root – or stimulate the San Yin Jiao (SP6, 三陰交) acupressure point to support kidney function.
Bone density can help you ascertain your risk of the disease. Do also get yourself checked if you are experiencing some osteoporosis symptoms, and this guide can help you prevent or manage the disease well. If you’re considering the use of herbal ingredients, speak to your physician and a TCM practitioner beforehand, as that can help you avoid potential contraindications and learn the correct herbs to use.
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