New Delhi: It`s not just the elderly who are at risk of developing osteoporosis - a disease of the bones that increases chances of fracture. Less exercise and high junk food intake are making even the young vulnerable to it, experts say.
With changes in lifestyle and dietary habits, youngsters are increasingly becoming a high risk group, they say.
While women, especially those who are past their menopause, are at a higher risk of getting osteoporosis, experts say that a change in lifestyle is making others vulnerable to the disease too.
Ravi Mohan Bagga, senior orthopedic consultant, said: "Osteoporosis is not an illness of just old ladies, but also affects young individuals in both genders. These days it is a trend seen mainly in the younger population used to a sedentary lifestyle and eating junk food."
"Men in their 50s do not experience the rapid loss of bone mass that women do in the years following menopause. By the age of 65 or 70, however, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate and the absorption of calcium, an essential nutrient for bone health throughout life, decreases in both sexes," he added.
Some of the factors that increase the risk of osteoporosis are prolonged hormonal imbalance, excessive use of medicines like steroids, lack of vitamin D, small bone frame, smoking and consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
Also if one has a family history of osteoporosis, the chances of suffering from the disease increase, he said.
Talking about women and osteoporosis, Dinesh Kansal, obstetrician and gynaecologist, said: "As women age, estrogen levels decrease and the risk of osteoporosis increases."
"Women who take birth control pills during their reproductive years may reduce their risk of osteoporosis developing later in life, probably because of the estrogen that many oral contraceptives contain. Estrogen replacement therapy helps protect women against bone loss," he said.
According to Kansal, more than 26 million women in India suffer from osteoporosis. There are no government figures on the total number of people in India who suffer from the disease.
"One in three women above the age of 50 and one in five men in the same age group suffer from osteoporotic fractures in India. It is estimated that about 20 percent women and 10-15 percent men would be osteoporotic by the year 2015," he said.
One of the biggest challenges concerning osteoporosis is under-diagnosis and under-treatment.
"Prevention of all osteoporotic fractures, including spinal fractures, must be a key public health goal. Despite spinal fractures causing severe pain and possible disability people often dismiss it as simple back pain or arthritis. Therefore, they remain undiagnosed and untreated," Kansal said.
Talking about prevention, Bagga said that regular exercise and adequate calcium intake in the form of dairy products and green, leafy vegetables helps in keeping the disease at bay.