Osteoporosis: Prevention is Key To Maintaining Healthy Bones
A consequence of ignoring bone health can be developing the serious disease called osteoporosis ("porous bone"), in which bone deterioration increases the risk of fractures, especially of the hip, spine and wrist. That's why it is so important to take care of the 2O6 bones in our bodies. Our bones have many functions: They make it possible for us to move; they protect our internal organs; and, they make blood cells (both red and white). Because of these important functions, our bones need our care and attention.
A lot of times people don't even know they have osteoporosis until their bones are already so fragile and weak that even the slightest injury results in a fracture. Osteoporosis is a major cause of disability and death in the elderly, and it's on the rise as the baby boom generation ages.
Osteoporosis is diagnosed with a simple, painless test, which compares your bone mineral density with the average for a healthy young adult. All women should have this test at age 65.
There may be no outward signs at all. A lot of people are surprised to find out they have osteoporosis, because they feel fine and look the same as they always have. Yet, they could have had decades of bone loss.
Visible signs of osteoporosis include stooped posture and the loss of more than one inch in height; both are caused by multiple tiny vertebral fractures.
There are steps that people of every age can take to help prevent this crippling disease, and the sooner you start the better your results will be. You must realize that it's never too late to start, even people in their 80s can and will benefit from treatment.
Here are some steps you can take to build and maintain stronger and healthier bones:
Know your risk factors. A major risk factor is a family history of osteoporosis, especially one that includes adult fractures; about 80 percent of bone density can be genetically inherited. Other factors include being postmenopausal; having low levels of estrogen or testosterone; being of thin build or northern European descent; and, using certain drugs such as steroids or antiseizure medications. If you are a very thin person the doctors may advise you to put on a little weight. A person with a body mass index [BMI] of 20 is twice as likely to suffer a fracture as one with a BMI of 24. Yet, both BMIs are considered normal.
Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is essential for the repair and growth of bones, and vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium. Good food sources of the nutrient include dairy products (low fat and nonfat) and calcium-fortified items. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may also reduce calcium loss. Cutting down on soda may help as well, research suggests.
Reduce sodium intake. Excessive salt intake can increase osteoporosis risk; it can boost the amount of calcium that is excreted in the urine.
Don't smoke. Nicotine suppresses bone formation. This is especially dangerous for younger people, who are building their lifetime supply of bone mass through about age 25. Smokers also tend to be more sedentary.
Limit alcohol intake. Moderate consumption of alcohol is actually beneficial to bones, but excessive consumption can be harmful.
Get your moves on. Two types of regular exercise help maintain bone mass: weight-bearing walking, climbing stairs, dancing, tennis and resistance weight lifting, with either free weights or machines. Both boost muscle mass and strengthen bone.
Stand up straight. Slumping may be a sign of muscle weakness in the back, and can increase the risk of fractures from osteoporosis.
Protect yourself. Wear your seat belt in a moving vehicle, use proper gear when working or playing sports and choose supportive shoes with nonslip soles.
Talk with your doctor. Ask whether you are a candidate for medications that can prevent and/or treat osteoporosis. Get advice as to what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. About 10 million Americans, 80 percent of them women, have the condition. Another 34 million are at risk. Half of women and a quarter of men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related broken bone in their lifetime.
Take time to find out if you are considered at risk for this disease and then take proper steps to reduce the effects of this crippling disease. Remember it is never to late to get started.