From about the age of 40 onwards the essential minerals that comprise the bones are progressively lost, causing them to become increasingly thinnet, porous and more brittle. Beyond a certain point of progression this can lead to multiple or cascade fractures. The best known such condition is osteoporosis which affects an estimated 75 million people in Europe, USA and Japan and 200 million women worldwide. While skeletal deterioration automatically occurs with increasing age, it becomes particularly manifest in those over 60, getting progressively worse. The most common osteoporotic fractures are the hip, forearm and vertebrae. It can be curbed and bone rebuilt with drug therapy, but since the condition has a major influence on quality of life and life expectancy, as always prevention is better than cure.
Bones, made up of minerals, vitamins and protein, are living, dynamic tissue with their own blood vessels and nerves. They continue to grow for the first 20-25 years of human life, at which point they have reached their peak bone mass and are at their densest, heaviest and strongest. However, as we age, the ability of the body to metabolically absorb calcium and other essential minerals decreases drastically, eventually leading to a calcium deficiency in the body. This deficit is generally compensated for by leaching the required calcium from our bones, disrupting bone microarchitecture and reducing the amount and variety of proteins present in bone making it more susceptible to fracture. When this is mild, it is termed “osteopaenia” and a precursor to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is typically identified with women that leads to an increased risk of fracture. However, men can succumb to it as well. The disease may be classified as Primary Type 1, Primary Type 2, or Secondary. The most common, type 1, or “postmenopausal osteoporosis”, refers to women after menopause. Type 2, or “senile osteoporosis”, occurs after age 75 and is seen in both females and males at a ratio of 2:1. Secondary osteoporosis may arise at any age and affect men and women equally. It usually surfaces in the presence of particular hormonal disorders and other chronic diseases or as a result of medications, specifically glucocorticoids, when the disease is called steroid- or glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis (siop or giop).