May Is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month
by Dr. Brett L. Lukert, DC
With May being national Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, it seems appropriate to discuss some facts about this condition known as the "silent disease."
Osteoporosis is a term describing "porous bones" that results from a significant decrease in bone density (the milder form is called osteopenia). It is called the silent disease because bone is often lost without any signs or symptoms. When our bones start to lose minerals, especially calcium, they become weak and brittle, making them susceptible to fractures. In the United States, osteoporosis affects 44 million people (80 percent are female) and causes 1.5 million fractures (usually in the hips, wrists and spine).
The strength of our bones is dependent on mass and density. Healthy bone density requires adequate minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. The body also needs plenty of vitamin D, which it manufactures naturally when in sunlight, to aid in the absorption of calcium.
Our bones are constantly changing. Beginning in childhood, our bodies make new bone faster than old bone is broken down, resulting in increased bone mass. Unfortunately, in our 30s, we reach what's called our "peak bone mass" and from this point forward, bone removal occurs quicker than new bone formation, which inevitably leads to bone loss.
The greatest loss occurs in the first few years following menopause, because the ovaries stop producing estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that helps prevent bone loss. Our risk of developing osteoporosis is largely dependent on how much bone mass we have attained between ages 25-35.
As with most health conditions, there are a few unavoidable risk factors correlated with osteoporosis including gender, age and family history. However, there are many factors that are essential for keeping bones healthy and are within our control. These include regular weight- bearing exercise (walking, jogging, lifting weights), adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, and not smoking or drinking excessively. These factors are imperative in order to minimize bone loss.
Along with keeping our bones strong as we age, it is important to take measures to decrease the likelihood of falling. Some suggestions include the following:
Osteoporotic symptoms can be significantly minimized if we make the lifestyle choices necessary to be healthy, live healthy and stay healthy!
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