To mark the day and in keeping with the theme for ‘World Osteoporosis Day 2016’, the Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) is calling on the general public to take early action to protect their bone and muscle health, in order to enjoy a good quality of life and independence in the future.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture (broken bones), particularly of the hip, spine, wrist and shoulder.

What causes osteoporosis?

“Most people know that they need calcium to build strong bones, but a low-calcium diet isn’t the only culprit,” says Mark Payne, CEO of ICPA. “There are lesser-known causes of osteoporosis, such as:

  • Low estrogen/estrogen deficiency in women
  • Low testosterone/testosterone deficiency in men
  • Other hormone imbalances – such as the parathyroid hormone and growth hormone which help orchestrate how well your bones use calcium and when to build up and break down bone
  • Lack of calcium and or vitamin D

Signs and symptoms that may indicate early bone loss

“Investigating these symptoms early on may save you from unwanted treatment or therapy down the line” advises Payne.

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Receding gums

Receding gums are quite common and can be attributed to a variety of factors, one of which is bone loss. Our teeth are connected to the jaw bone and if the jaw is losing bone, the gums can recede.

Decreased grip strength

Hand grip strength is one of the most important physical tests to measure overall bone mineral density.

Weak and brittle fingernails

Fingernail health seems to correlate to bone health. However, spending time in water, exposure to chemicals, digging in the garden, or other work can be tough on your nails, so take these into consideration when you assess your own nails.

Cramps, muscle aches and bone pain

Muscle and bone pain is often overlooked, but can indicate a vitamin D deficiency – and vitamin D is an important bone builder. Cramps can indicate that your calcium, magnesium and/or potassium levels have dropped very low. If this persists then excessive bone loss can occur.

Height loss

Losing height can indicate a weakening of the muscles around your spine, and it’s likely that a loss in muscle is connected to an eventual loss in bone.

Low overall fitness

Osteoporosis has been linked to an overall decline in physical fitness. If your general fitness declines, it is likely that your bone mass will also decline.

How to protect yourself from developing osteoporosis

The ICPA advise the following measures for bone health:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Quit alcohol
  • Quit smoking (together with alcohol this is classified as a “bone robber”)
  • Quit fizzy cooldrinks
  • Eat healthily
  • Make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D – your local community pharmacy will have a range of supplements available to ensure that you are taking in enough of these

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.