Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life-threatening and a major cause of pain and long-term disability.
Imagine your bones getting so weak that a sneeze or a sudden movement breaks them – that is what osteoporosis reduces bone health to. It is a silent enemy that creeps into our body as we age and bursts onto the scene in the form of fractures and unexplained pain. The disease generally has no symptoms and is rarely diagnosed until bones break or fracture. On the occasion of the World Osteoporosis Day marked globally on October 20 annually, doctors have urged the public to think about bone health.
Did you know that optimum bone mass is attained between 25 to 30 years? After that, bone mass reduces and by the age of 40, the rate of loss begins to exceed the rate of regeneration. If the peak bone mass attained is inadequate and if the person’s lifestyle does not support bone health, osteoporosis sets in.
According to global statistics, one in three women and one in five men aged 50 years and over will suffer an osteoporotic fracture. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can be life-threatening and a major cause of pain and long-term disability.
Dr Sadashiva Somayaji, specialist orthopaedic surgeon at the NMC Speciality Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said: “Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Osteoporosis-related fractures most commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
“Our bones are living tissue and constantly changing. For people with osteoporosis, bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone, leading the bones become porous, brittle and prone to fracture,” he added.
Dr Khaled Bitar, specialist orthopaedic surgeon at the Burjeel Hospital Dubai, said:
“There are two main types of osteoporosis, the primary (more common) is related to hormonal changes that happens when we get older (after age of 60) and the other type which is secondary to other diseases that disturb normal bones metabolism (building up new bones and regeneration of old cells). Diagnosis starts with understanding patient history, and clinical examination. Routine X-ray usually tell about the strength of bone texture. Currently, we use a device called Dexa scan for diagnosis.”
Dr Suad Trebinjac, medical director of the Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, said: “People need to build strong bones throughout their life to avoid osteoporotic fractures. Many people do not even realise they have osteoporosis until a seemingly small fall leads to a fracture and the doctor informs them about the disease. Once it sets in, it becomes so difficult to manage.”
The infection spreads more widely in winter months as the virus becomes more stable when the air is cold and dry.
As temperatures cool down, the sound of sneezing and sniffling gets louder reminding us that the flu season is back.
Seasonal influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by the influenza virus that affects our respiratory system, mainly nose and throat, and can vary in symptoms ranging from mild to severe symptoms.
The infection spreads more widely in winter months as the virus becomes more stable when the air is cold and dry. In the UAE, health authorities define the flu season as extending from September to April.
What is scary is that the airborne virus is gradually turning more resistant to antiviral drugs and increasing the number of deaths worldwide.
Health experts in the UAE are urging residents to get flu vaccinations at the earliest. The basics of flu prevention include general hygiene habits like washing hands before eating and avoiding contact with sick peers.
Flu season may be inevitable but we can ward off the infectious disease by revving up our immune system. Have you noticed that two people may have the same exposure to a sick friend – and yet one of them gets sick, while the other doesn’t? The difference is often their immune system.
Speaking on ways to boost immunity against the seasonal flu, Dr Nisha Soares, consultant paediatrics at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah, said that one of the most powerful tools for a strong immune system can be found right in your own kitchen – it’s about the food you eat.
“This is a great time to make diet changes: Pile up fruits and vegetables as studies show that people who eat a lot of them get sick less. The nutrients can help your immune system fight viruses and bacteria. Also, regular exercise boosts immunity. According to Harvard Health, you are more likely to get struck by flu when you don’t exercise and stay indoors than actually going out in the cold.”
She added: “Iron deficiency affects the immune system, especially of children. A 2016 study published by the National Institute of Health found that the overall function of immune cells was much lower in children with iron deficiency.”
Dr Fernanda Bonilla, consultant, infectious diseases at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: “The best thing one can do to protect themselves from flu is to get a vaccine. The flu vaccine protects against the most common strains, significantly reducing a person’s chances of contracting the virus.
“By getting the flu vaccine, you are preparing your immune system to fight in case you come into contact with the flu. Flu vaccines cannot ‘give you the flu’.”
Dr Bonilla added that it is important that people get enough sleep as it helps with immunity. “Adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep while teens and children need 10 or more hours. Well-balanced meals, high in fruits and vegetables, to maintain a healthy weight and regular exercise are also a must to keep away diseases.
“Avoiding contact with people who have contracted the flu and washing hands with soap and using sanitiser can significantly help reduce exposure to the flu virus,” she added.
In the UAE, incense is burnt in at least 90 per cent of households.
Burning incense at home could be harming your health, potentially increasing your risks of oral infection and other diseases, a new study at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) has revealed.
Though past research has shown how the practice circulates air pollutants, the lead author of the study, Barbados Yvonne Vallès, noted “a significant lack of awareness among the public”.
Incense burning is an ancient practice often used as part of religious ceremonies or aromatising spaces. In the UAE, incense is burnt in at least 90 per cent of households, mainly to perfume homes and clothing, according to another probe cited in the study.
Previous analysis has established that incense smoke contains high concentrations of pollutants – such as carbon monoxide and nitric oxide, both of which are detected in tobacco smoke – and its use is related to increased risks of cardiovascular and lung disease.
Now, the NYUAD research has presented how incense burning is linked to oral health.
“For the first time, we are showing an association between incense use and changes in microorganism composition that inhabit the oral cavity. Although this is a preliminary analysis, it is nonetheless an important finding with potential health implications,” said Vallès, lecturer of genetics at the University of the West Indies.
How it was conducted
The study gathered mouthwash samples from over 300 Emirati adults and looked into each of their ‘oral microbiota’, or the ecological community of microorganisms found in the mouth.
Then, the frequency of incense use by the participants was assessed by a questionnaire.
The survey of incense use ranged from never (6.6 per cent) to occasional (24.1 per cent), frequent (33.7 per cent) and daily (35.6 per cent), revealing that the diversity of oral microbiota was significantly increased in daily incense users when compared to those who never use it.
By comparing non-incense users to incense users, the study found that burning incense is associated with changes in the diversity, structure, and composition of the oral microbiota, even when the user gets exposed to low levels of incense, as is in the case of occasional users. This implies that even a low exposure can have adverse effects on health.
The microorganisms found in the mouth play an essential role in helping the body maintain a stable internal environment. Any disruption may lead to serious health consequences, the study noted.
An important step
Raghib Ali, director of NYUAD’s Public Health Research Centre, said: “This is an important first step in understanding how incense may affect human health. (and) to really understand how it may contribute to common chronic diseases among Emiratis. We need to continue to study the UAE population over many years.”
The study was co-authored by 28 researchers from different universities and organisations, including NYUAD, NYU in New York, Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, Zayed University, UAE University, Zayed Military Hospital, Sheikh Khalifa Medical Center, Seha, and The University of the West Indies in Barbados.