World Osteoporosis Day 2020: Hereditary factors can affect bone development in early years, women at higher risk, suggests study

·4 min read

Bones are made of minerals and bound together by collagen fibres. They have a thick, hard outer shell called cortical or compact bone and inside this hard surface is a softer mesh of bone called trabecular bone which has a honeycomb-like structure. The building of new bones and the breakdown of old ones is a natural and lifelong process, though bone development slows down with age.

Osteoporosis is a disease where the loss of bone minerals - and hence the bones - occurs very quickly, leading to brittle bones, fractures and frailty, among other health issues. Osteoporosis can occur no matter what your gender, although studies indicate that women are more at risk after menopause. Usually, you can assess the risks of osteoporosis pretty early on as well as prevent its occurrence. World Osteoporosis Day is observed on 20th October every year to spread awareness about this disease and the effect it has on patients and their families.

Osteoporosis in families

The global campaign for World Osteoporosis Day 2020 will not only focus on the life-changing impact of the disease in terms of pain, disability and dependence but also on how the disease is a family affair, given that family members carry the burden of care and the disease is often passed down through generations in a family.

Studies indicate that osteoporosis tends to run in families as inherited factors can affect bone development in the early years, which is a major risk factor for osteoporosis later in life. The particular genetic defects or disorders that cause this to happen are yet to be determined by scientists but the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), indicate that if one of your parents have a history of fractures, especially hip fracture, then you should get screened for the disease too.

A study published in Nature in 2000 indicates that there isn't much difference in familial and non-familial cases of osteoporosis, although the risk of greater severity and early onset is more often seen in familial cases. The study also highlights the fact that direct female relatives of osteoporosis patients are at a greater risk of developing the disease. If you do have someone with osteoporosis or someone with a history of fractures in the family, you can get them and yourself screened for osteoporosis.

Screening for and preventing osteoporosis

The CDC says a type of X-ray known as dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) is used to show if you have low bone density - which means your bones are weaker - and if you're likely to develop osteoporosis. Getting yourself screened is necessary as osteoporosis doesn't always have apparent symptoms, and by the time you start getting frequent and unhealing fractures due to the disease, it may be too late to take preventive steps.

If you're indeed at risk for osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend calcium and vitamin D supplementation, exercising regularly to build your muscles and keep your bones healthy, giving up smoking and drinking alcohol and stopping medications that affect your bone density, like steroids. The timely adoption of these preventive steps may reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis.

Caring for an osteoporosis patient

If you're caring for or living with someone diagnosed with osteoporosis, you should know that creating a home environment with minimal fall risks is your primary concern. As osteoporosis progresses, even the slightest of traumas can cause fractures. Since the bones are extremely weak, they take months to repair, if they repair at all. Multiple fractures can be painful and very debilitating; not to mention how significantly these issues reduce the quality of life.

In addition to creating a safe home environment, you must also encourage and help the osteoporosis patient adopt appropriate lifestyle changes like quitting smoking and alcohol, engaging in regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. Make sure you include rich sources of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and protein, like eggs, sardines, okra, broccoli, almonds and sesame seeds. Stay in regular contact with the doctor and make further changes if and when necessary.

For more information, read our article on Osteoporosis.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India's first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Also See: World Sight Day 2020: Healthy diet, minimising exposure to screens among ways to protect eyes from common problems

World Mental Health Day 2020: Common misconceptions most people have about therapy and the truth about them

Multiple myeloma treatment: Certain sugars can arrest bone perforation and cancer progression, indicates study conducted on mice

Read more on Health by Firstpost.