Building Strong Bones
Your Best Defense Against Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone in which the bone mineral density is reduced leading to an increased risk of fracture.
It leads to literally abnormally porous bone that is more compressible like a sponge, than dense like a brick.
Bones that are affected can break with relatively minor injury that normally would not cause a bone fracture either in the form of cracking (as in hip fracture), or collapsing (as in a compression fracture of the vertebrae of the spine).
The spine, hips, and wrists are common areas of bone fractures, although related fractures can also occur in almost any skeletal bone.
Osteoporosis is an important health issue:
- In the United States, 44 million people have low bone density. This amounts to 55% of the U.S. population 50 years-old and over.
- In the U. S., more than 10 million people have the disease and almost 34 million more have low bone density.
- On in two white women will experience a bone fracture in her lifetime due to the disease.
- In the United States, direct health care costs amount to billions of dollars without even taking into account the indirect costs, such as lost work productivity.
- Twenty percent of those who experience a hip fracture will die in the year following the fracture.
- One-third of hip fracture patients are discharged to a nursing home within the year after fracture.
- Only one-third of hip fracture patients regain their pre-fracture level of function.
Many patients may not even be aware that they have osteoporosis because it can be present without any symptoms for decades until a bone fractures or evidence becomes available of a small fracture which has gone unnoticed.
A routine x-ray can reveal the disease by indicating the bones to be thinner and lighter than normal bones. Unfortunately, by the time x-rays detect this, at least 30% of the bone has already been lost.
Many experts recommend a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (DXA, formerly known as DEXA) for diagnosis.
There are several risk factors for developing the disease:
- Being female
- Small thin body (under 127 pounds)
- Family history of the disease
- Being post menopausal or of an advanced age
- Caucasian or Asian race
- Abnormal absence of menstrual periods or having an eating disorder
- Low testosterone levels in men
- A diet low in dairy products or other sources of calcium and vitamin D
- Inactive lifestyle
- Cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol use
Life style changes and medical treatment are part of a total program to prevent osteoporosis:
- Get enough calcium each day: You can get it through foods and/or calcium pills. Calcium rich foods include; green leafy vegetables, sardines, canned salmon (with bone), tofu, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, almonds, sesame seeds, almond butter, beans, and dairy foods.
- get enough vitamin D each day: Vitamin D helps your body take in calcium. You can get it through sunlight and foods like milk.
- Eat a healthy diet: Other nutrients like vitamin A and C, magnesium and zinc, as well as protein help build strong bones too.
- Get moving: Being active helps your bones byy slowing bone loss, improving muscle strength, and helping your balance to prevent falls.
- Don't smoke: It damages your bones and lowers the amount of estrogen in your body.
- Drink alcohol moderately: If you do drink, do not drink more than one alcoholic drink per day. Alcohol can make it harder for your body to use the calcium you take in>
- Make your home safe: reduce the chances of falling by making your home safe. For example, use a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub. Keep your floors free from clutter and remove throw rugs that cause you to trip.
- consult with your doctor: Always seek medical advice before taking any kind of medications.
With the aging of the world, the number of people with osteoporosis related fractures will increase exponentially.
The best way to prevent weak bones is easy - start by building strong ones. It is never too late - or too early - to do something about building strong bones, it is your best defense.
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