|The silent killer|
| Osteoporosis is a big problem, but because the gradual loss of bone density is such a slow and symptomless process many women are caught unaware - and then it’s too late|
Rania has always been an energetic woman.
She works part-time at her family business, plays tennis twice a week and spent about 15 years of her life running after two hyperactive children.
She eats well, doesn’t smoke and only drinks alcohol on special occasions.
Yet when Rania was only 52 years old, she fell in the mall, fractured her hip and was out of action for almost a year. Her doctor then informed her she had osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, leading to a loss of bone thickness.
As a result, bones become thinner and less dense, so that even a minor bump or accident can cause serious fractures.
Any bone can be affected by osteoporosis, but the most common sites are bones in the hip, spine, wrist, ribs, pelvis and upper arm.
Osteoporosis usually has no signs or symptoms until a fracture happens - and this is why it is often referred to as the ‘silent disease’
October 20, is World Osteoprosis Day, when doctors and osteoporosis suffers around the globe hope to build awareness to the disease.
According to Doctor Shah Alam Khan, a paediatric orthopedic surgeon at Dubai Bone and Joint Centre, there are two main types of osteoporosis.
“One is age-induced osteoporosis, which happens naturally in people when they reach the age of 70 or 75. It happens in both males and females equally,” he says.
“The other type of osteoporosis mostly affects females that are post-menopause. This is the one that concerns us the most, because it is prevalent in females that are post-menopause, but it’s preventable.”
Dubai-based Mary-Jo, who has suffered from brittle bones for almost ten years, urges women to make sure their bones are healthy, as she says it’s absolutely no fun having osteoporosis.
“I love walking, but I gradually started to find standing for long periods extremely painful, so I don’t do it so much anymore.
I am pretty much car-bound and miss not having the freedom to use my legs in the same way I once did,” says Mary-Jo.
Doctor Khan can’t stress enough how important it is, especially for women, to curb the process of osteoporosis by exercising and ensuring an adequate intake of calcium, protein and vitamin D to strengthen bones.
“In a recent study undertaken at our clinic we found that there were about 150 patients coming in with body pain. And most of them we found out had a vitamin D deficiency, which was leading to osteoporosis,” says Doctor Khan.
“Vitamin D deficiency is common in Middle Eastern society because of the traditional dress. Veils obviously stop the sunlight getting through to the skin and this lack of vitamin D can contribute towards osteoporosis later in life.
“Numerous studies have shown that veiled populations are more prone to osteoporosis then non-veiled ones,” adds Doctor Khan.
Calcium is also very important in helping to build and maintain good bone density. One would think that within an affluent society like Dubai, with its abundance of food choices, people would be getting a good intake of calcium, but Doctor Khan warns that calcium deficiency is high here, because of the core foods we eat.
“Calcium is in the food we eat, but it doesn’t always get absorbed properly,” explains Doctor Khan.
“For example say you eat some food with calcium and then you drink tea - the calcium doesn’t get absorbed because the tea has tannins in it that inhibit the absorption of calcium.
“Even a glass of soft drink, like Pepsi, with food inhibits calcium absorption, so it’s important to make a special effort to take calcium on an empty stomach.
A glass of milk is a great source of calcium, but it should be drunk on its own for maximum benefit,” he adds.