Many patients have mixed up ideas about osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, viewing joint pain from the former disease as an outcome of the latter, which is not the case.
Osteoporosis is a normal part of the ageing process where bones would become less dense and more fragile when one is getting old. Painful joints are usually not a symptom of osteoporosis until patients sustain a bone fracture, which would often occur in forearm, wrist, hip or spinal bones.
Bone fractures could be a result of a fall or sudden impact. However, sometimes the collapse of spinal bones could happen without impact, which would then lead to a hunchback and then pain in patients.
The skeletal system is crucial since the skeleton acts as a scaffold that provides support and protection for soft issues and internal organs of the body.
Throughout time new bone matters would be produced while old matters would be decomposed and displaced. Yet after reaching the peak at the age of 35, the increase of bones would slow down as the rate of decomposition speeds up. When dietary intake of calcium is insufficient, the body would also draw on the reserve for daily usages, prompting a more rapid loss of the bones.
According to the dietary reference intake suggested by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, people aged between 19 and 50 should have a daily calcium intake of at least 1,000mg while those over 50 would require 1,200mg. The consumption of coffee, strong tea and alcohol should be limited as these substances would accelerate the thinning of the bones.
Endurance and resistance training would improve cardiopulmonary functions and increase muscle strength, says the American College of Sports Medicine. Together with weight-bearing exercise, bone strength can be further enhanced. Walking, climbing stairs and aerobic workouts are good examples. It is recommended that everyone engage in a sports activity three times a week, with each session lasting for 30 to 60 minutes. Outdoor activities are preferred for facilitating production of vitamin D under sun exposure which would allow better calcium absorption in the body.
In addition, high-risk individuals or patients with osteoporosis should be careful and avoid falls or accidents to minimize the chance for bone fractures. For instance, handrails and shower mats should be in place to enhance home safety. Also, one should ensure other things, such as staying alert while crossing a street, wearing slip-resistant shoes, avoiding medicines that have a side effect of drowsiness, and ensuring better vision through suitable eyewear.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 15
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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