Osteoporosis or fragile bones are a very common problem in the aged group especially in the females. In this condition, the bone becomes porous and can break on even a small accident or injury.
In osteoporosis, the calcium gets gradually withdrawn from the bones leaving only the matrix or structure of collagen fibre. The bone looks all right from the outside but becomes weak inside. About 99% of our body’s calcium (of the total of about 1 to 2 kilograms) is present in the bones and teeth. When calcium is required for any other activity in the body, like blood clotting, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, etc., cells called Osteoclasts withdraw the calcium from the bones and supply it to the bloodstream. Usually, after 30 years of age, the bone-forming cells called Osteoblasts become less in number and start losing to the calcium-withdrawing Osteoclasts. This leads to Osteoporosis. It aggravates in females after the onset of menopause. The extent of Osteoporosis can be studied by a simple X-ray and more accurately by a machine called “Bone Densitometer.”
The main treatment of Osteoporosis is regular exercises and supplement of calcium. If the person does not go out at all in sunlight then a Vitamin D supplement is also required (our skin manufactures Vitamin D in the presence of sunlight. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium in the intestine). In western and advanced countries, many other drugs are being used to stimulate bone formation. Fluoride used with the toothpastes can help in osteoporosis to some extent. Hormone supplements in postmenopausal women can also help in preventing osteoporosis but it has side effects.
These days bone densitometry is advisable for anyone after the age of 60 years and especially so for the females. If there are signs of osteoporosis a supplement of 500 mg calcium is recommended. Foods that are rich in calcium are milk, ragi, whole chana, cauliflower, carrot leaves, methi leaves, lettuce, lotus stem, phalsa, dates, rajma, field beans, soyabean, bathua, radish leaves, moth beans.