Osteoporosis: How To Ensure Osteoporosis Doesn't Happen To You

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 12:44pm

By Rose Giordano

Osteoporosis was once thought of as the affliction of hunched-over, older white women. Not anymore. The numbers of cases among non-white and young women-as well as men-are on the rise. In fact, one out of two women and one out of eight men over the age of 50 will have some form of osteoporosis in their lifetime. What is osteoporosis? And how can you prevent it from happening to you?

Osteoporosis means porous bones

Osteoporosis is characterized by a decreased density, weakening and thinning of the bones. The human skeleton is made up of many bones, 206 of them to be exact. Over time, small cracks can form. This can lead to the appearance of tiny fractures in the spine, hip, wrist, and other areas of the skeleton. As a result, previously dense and sturdy bones become pocked with holes, causing them to become fragile and easily broken. Ultimately, osteoporosis increases the chances of a person fracturing a hip or breaking other bones. The spine uses 33 bones to provide support to stand upright and move around. When osteoporosis happens to the spinal column, it weakens the spine, which explains the characteristically hunched posture of a person with the disease.

What causes osteoporosis?

Female hormones (estrogen) levels are not the only determining factor in bone strength, which is why men can contract osteoporosis too. Diet also has a significant influence on bone health. The nutrients calcium and vitamin D are primarily responsible for the growth and preservation of bone mass in children and adults. Without enough calcium in your diet, your body will start depleting your bones to get the nutrients it needs. This is what creates the thin and fragile bones that can lead to osteoporosis.

Ever wonder why cartons of milk are fortified with vitamin D? Well, your body needs the help of vitamin D to absorb calcium from the food you eat. But don't worry if you don't drink milk very often. Your body can make its own vitamin D using the chemical reactions that happen when your skin is exposed to sunlight.

Lower your risk of developing osteoporosis

Here are some steps you can take to lower your risk for developing osteoporosis:

  • Eat a well balanced diet that includes calcium (900-1500 milligrams per day).
  • Regularly perform weight-bearing exercises.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Discuss bone density testing with your doctor.

Remember: It is important-especially for men and women under the age 30-to take an active role in maintaining strong bones. Although there are numerous ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis, there is no cure.

Mark your calendars! Talk to the professionals at the following osteoporosis event

To learn what you can do to prevent osteoporosis from happening to you, participate in the "United States Bone and Joint Decade National Action Week" which will take place during the last weeks of October for the span of 10 consecutive years (2002-2011). With this event, health professionals, researchers and other organizations will be working to progress the understanding of bone and joint disorders and to educate the public about prevention.

For more information on preventing the onset of osteoporosis see the following article from TheDietChannel: Osteoporosis: Warning Signs & Tips for Prevention.