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Bone loss is not normal part of aging
Health advice
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Sally Fields does a great job simplifying treatment for osteoporosis in her TV ads. It’s a shame she can’t tell everyone what to do to prevent the disease.
Osteoporosis is a major threat for about 44 million Americans. Ten million are estimated to have the disease and an additional 34 million have low bone mass, placing them at risk for osteoporosis.
Our bones constantly clear out old bone cells and make new ones, resulting in an entirely new skeleton every 10 years. For some people, however, the aging process causes the bones cells to break down faster than they can be replaced, which causes their bones to become fragile. This process — osteoporosis — is not a normal part of aging.
Characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, osteoporosis leads to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine and wrist. Due to a decrease in estrogen levels, loss of bone density speeds up in women after menopause, causing women to lose between 35 and 50 percent of their bone density as they age. Low testosterone and other factors can create the same condition in men, although women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis. Women’s lighter, thinner bones and longer lives account for some of the reasons why they are at a higher risk. The majority of women suffering from osteoporosis are non-Hispanic white and Asian women over the age of 50, but people of all ethnic backgrounds are at risk.
Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence is the best defense against osteoporosis later. But there are also things adults can do to lower their risk. The secret is adequate nutrition, good calcium intake, exercise and adequate vitamin D supplementation. Calcium intake is extremely important and some physicians recommend taking calcium supplements throughout life for both sexes but especially for women.
Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, dancing, lifting weights and jogging are great ways to build strong bones, but these are also things that people who already have osteoporosis should avoid. Exercise is a key factor in preventing osteoporosis. Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Just as a muscle gets stronger the more you use it, a bone becomes stronger and denser when you place demands on it.
Because osteoporosis has no symptoms, most people are not aware that they have it until something happens, like a bone fracture. One way to determine the presence of this disease is your bone density using a bone mineral density machine. Recording your skeletal height every year can also provide an indicator as people appear to shrink as the disease progresses.
Risk factors include:
• personal history of fracture as an adult,
• history of fracture in a close relative,
• advanced age,
• female sex,
• poor health/frailty,
• current cigarette smoking,
• low body weight,
• anorexia nervosa,
• estrogen deficiency (past menopause, early menopause, before age 45),
• low testosterone in men,
• use of certain medications such as corticosteroids and anti-convulsants,
• low calcium intake,
• excessive alcohol use,
• recurrent falls,
• inadequate activity.
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month.
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