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Osteoporosis: Prevent It; Reverse Its Consequences

Osteoporosis, meaning porous bone, is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, many people are unaware of the link between broken bone and osteoporosis. Yet, currently in the U.S., about 10 million people (8 million women and 2 million men) suffer from osteoporosis. And about 34 million more people are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for the disease…and, subsequently at risk for broken bones.
Osteoporosis, meaning porous bone, is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, many people are unaware of the link between broken bone and osteoporosis. Yet, currently in the U.S., about 10 million people (8 million women and 2 million men) suffer from osteoporosis. And about 34 million more people are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for the disease…and, subsequently at risk for broken bones.

Like muscle, bone is a living, growing tissue that constantly breaks down and reforms. We often think about building and maintaining our muscle strength; we need to remember to build and maintain our bone strength as well.  Osteoporosis is a disease that can be prevented and treated. Below are the best things you can do to prevent osteoporosis.

Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol excessively (because smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with calcium absorption and damage bone cells). Men and women ages 19-50 need 1,000 mg per day of calcium, while those over age 50 need 1,200 mg per day. Read food labels to see how much calcium you are getting, and add a calcium supplement if you do not get enough calcium on a regular basis.

Also, make sure you are getting enough vitamin D because vitamin D is what helps your body absorb calcium into the blood stream. You can get vitamin D from spending time in the sunlight (about 15 minutes per day) or from foods, such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk. You need 400-600 IU (international units) per day. So if you are not getting enough from sunlight or foods, you may need a vitamin D supplement.

Another way to prevent osteoporosis is by regularly participating in weight-bearing exercise. Like muscles, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Weight-bearing exercise is the best for your bones because it forces you to work against gravity. Weight-bearing describes any activity you do on your feet that works your bones and muscles against gravity, such as brisk walking, jogging, hiking, pushing a lawn mower, soccer, basketball, baseball, dancing, aerobics, stair climbing, bowling, skiing, skating, weight training with free weights or machines, etc. Because bone is living tissue that constantly breaks down and reforms, when you do regular weight-bearing exercise, your bone adapts to the impact of the weight and pull of muscle by building more cells and becoming stronger. It is never too late to begin exercising. If you already have osteoporosis or other chronic health conditions, talk with your doctor about the best kind of exercise for you.

An early diagnosis can also make a difference for those with osteoporosis or weakening bones. It is common for bones to weaken as we age and for women to have a loss of estrogen, which considerably weakens bones after menopause. Be sure to talk with your doctor about when to begin looking at how dense your bones have become and whether or not an osteoporosis medicine may be needed to help prevent or slow the process of bone loss. Your doctor can perform a simple Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test, which is a quick and painless way to see if you have osteoporosis or reduced bone mass. If you do need medicines, thoroughly discuss your medication options with your doctor. Today, there are many medication options that can prevent and help build bones. Be sure to talk about all the benefits as well as potential side effects, and any other medications or supplements you are taking. The choice of medication is dependent on each individual’s particular circumstances.

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