Strong bones: How to prevent osteoporosis
Bones are the essential structural component in our bodies yet often they are neglected. Many people living with low bone density or osteoporosis don't even realize it until they break a bone. Luckily the earlier you address your bone health — especially if you have a family history of low bone density — the better your chances of delaying or avoiding osteoporosis. Here are a few facts and tips on how to prevent osteoporosis.
What is osteoporosis?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by thinning bone tissue and decreased bone mass due to reduced new bone formation or increased bone re-absorption. Osteoporosis causes bone weakness and fractures especially in the hip wrist and spine. While it's common in older women osteoporosis can also develop in men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) reports half of all women and a quarter of all men will suffer from an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime.
How to prevent osteoporosis
Exercise. Daily weight-bearing and muscle-building exercises can help strengthen bones and maintain bone density at any age. At least 30 minutes a day can improve endurance strength posture flexibility balance and prevent additional bone loss.
Lifestyle. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle may also help to prevent osteoporosis. Limiting your intake of alcohol quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight may lessen your likelihood of developing osteoporosis later in life.
Vitamin D. Produced by moderate sunlight exposure vitamin D is needed to help your bones adequately absorb calcium. If you are deficient a vitamin D and calcium supplement may be required to help with calcium absorption and increase bone density.
Hormones. As we age our hormone levels drop and lead to brittle bones especially among postmenopausal women. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often recommended to increase hormone levels, protect against bone loss and increase bone density. However HRT may increase the risk of a cardiovascular issue ovarian cancer and a decrease in cognition.
The value of screenings
Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 44 million have low bone mineral density (BMD) according to the NOF. A BMD test can tell your doctor if you have normal or low BMD. This evaluation is the only method of diagnosing osteoporosis and its less severe form known as osteopenia.
The NOF recommends a painless BMD test for women over age 65 and men over age 70 particularly for individuals who have had a fracture after age 50 and for menopausal women with risk factors. The types of screenings used to diagnose osteoporosis include:
Peripheral DEXA (p-DEXA). This test uses a small machine generally found in doctor's offices clinics or health fairs that measures the BMD in your lower arm wrist finger or heel.
Central DEXA. A more comprehensive test that measures the BMD of the hip and spine or forearm. With this test you lie fully dressed on a table while the scanner passes over your lower spine and hips. This test is the best in predicting your fracture risks.
Making subtle lifestyle changes early in life can help keep your bones healthy and strong and allow you to stay independent well into your golden years.