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The “Silent Disease”

Author: Belinda Lin

Editors: Ivan Feng and Jasleen Matharu

Artist: Denise Suarez

Have you ever heard that drinking milk will strengthen your bones? Well, there is a simple reason behind it. Our bones require calcium to prevent fractures and milk happens to be a prominent source of calcium. However, this raises the question of why it matters how strong your bones are despite them being living tissues that are constantly being replaced. The speed of the replacement of new bone tissue must match or exceed the rate of decay of old bone tissue to avoid a serious disease called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become really weak. In extreme cases of osteoporosis, there is a risk of getting a fracture just by coughing or bending over in areas including the hip, wrist, or back.

Most of our development occurs during early childhood to late teenage years, including a significant increase in our bone mass. This is when our bodies make new bones faster than we can break down old bones. Contrastingly, in adulthood, this process slows and bone mass slowly declines. Therefore, osteoporosis will be more likely to occur in later years.

Besides aging, there are several other factors that play into the likelihood of getting osteoporosis, including hormone levels and dietary factors. Osteoporosis has been known to affect people who have excess or inadequate amounts of a hormone. Lower sex hormone levels tend to weaken the bones. More specifically, women who experience a decrease in estrogen levels during menopause are at high risk of developing osteoporosis. Similarly, too much of the thyroid hormone speeds up the process of bone decay, increasing the chances of this disease.