Many of us think of osteoporosis as something that happens as we age, and many of us think that it’s something that only post-menopausal women need to be concerned about.
We’re right and wrong. According to the website www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics, 1/10 of all women over the age of 60 are affected by osteoporosis, with that number increasing to 2/3 by the age of 90. But according to that same site, “It is estimated that the lifetime risk of experiencing an osteoporotic fracture in men over the age of 50 is 30%, similar to the lifetime risk of developing prostate cancer.” So it’s not just a female issue.
First, what exactly is osteoporosis? It’s a condition where the bones become brittle (porous). An article on www.nof.org (“Bone Basics”), explains that we build and lose bone mass throughout our lives, but when we’re young we build it faster than we lose it. We usually hit ‘peak bone mass’ between the ages of 18 & 25, at which point we may begin to lose bone mass faster than we grow it. Therefore, the more bone we have at ‘peak’ the better. There are a number of things that cause it, ranging from illnesses that hinder calcium absorption, to hormonal changes associated with menopause, to certain medications.
Some of these are controllable, others aren’t. As far as some of the things we can control, we can:
- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium & vitamin D, as well as bone healthy foods such as fruits & veggies. In addition to being necessary for bone growth, calcium helps our blood to clot, our nerves to send messages, and our muscles to contract. Our bodies are not able to produce calcium on their own, so when they need it they’ll take it from our bones. Dairy products are probably the best known calcium source, but it’s also in certain green vegetables as well as soy and almond milk, and fortified breads & cereals. Vitamin D comes from three main sources; sunlight, a few foods, and supplements. Our bodies take UVB sunlight rays, turn it into vitamin D, and store it. Unfortunately, while sunscreen is beneficial in the fight against skin cancer, it also limits our body’s ability to manufacture vitamin D. It only occurs naturally in a few foods such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna so it’s added to such things as milk and cereal products.
- Exercise regularly. Both high-impact, if possible, and low-impact weight-bearing exercises are important, as are muscle-strengthening exercises. Examples of high-impact weight-bearing exercises are things like dancing, running, jogging, and rope jumping. Low-impact includes such things as the use of elliptical machines, stair step machines, and treadmill walking. Muscle strengthening exercises include weight lifting, elastic exercise bands, and any kind of exercise that involves lifting one’s own weight.
- Avoid smoking.
- Limit alcohol intake; alcohol interferes with our body’s ability to absorb calcium.
As far as the uncontrollables, such things as age, race, gender, size, family, and medical history all play a part. Long term use of corticosteroids such as asthma inhalers, certain types of anti-depressants, and some medicines used to treat esophageal reflux have all been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, and diseases such as Crohn’s and celiac can affects our body’s ability to absorb calcium as well.
Uncontrollable risk factors aside, it’s never too early to be concerned about bone health. Eating well, staying active, not smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are all important and should always be part of a strong bone strategy.
Written by: Tricia Doane, FizzNiche Staff Writer