Bone up on Osteoporosis

Bone HealthThanks to grade-school science class and milk commercials, you know that calcium is an essential building block of bones. Beyond that, how much do you really understand about maintaining good bone health? Learning the causes, risk factors and treatments for osteoporosis can help you develop an effective action plan for bone care.

How Osteoporosis Develops

Bone, like other living tissue in your body, is in a constant state of renewal. Your 20s are a time of peak bone mass–when new tissue regenerates faster than old tissue is broken down. As you age, the process reverses and your body can’t create new bone tissue quickly enough to keep up with the loss of old bone tissue.

Osteoporosis develops when the deficit of new tissue becomes too great and bones are brittle to the point of breaking from an action as minor as coughing.

Risk Factors

While men can develop osteoporosis, it most often affects white and Asian women, particularly when they are post-menopausal. Bone tends to weaken due to a decrease in levels of sex hormones, such as the drop in estrogen during menopause.

Other risk factors include:

  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Small body frame
  • Eating disorders
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Smoking

Diagnosis and Treatment

Unfortunately, osteoporosis usually doesn’t present symptoms until a bone actually breaks. Bone density testing should be done on women by age 65 and men by age 70, especially if risk factors are present.

Today there are several medications available to treat people at significant risk for fractures. You can boost your calcium intake with foods like leafy green vegetables, low-fat dairy products and canned salmon or sardines with bones. Strength training and weight-bearing exercise such as walking can increase bone density.

The best time to start improving your bone health is today. An orthopaedic physician can work with you to develop a personalized plan of treatment.

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