May is National Osteoporosis Month. What a great opportunity to think about our bone health. It is daunting that 54 million Americans are affected by Osteoporosis and low bone mass. How can we ensure our children’s bones grow as healthy as they should so they don’t have problems later in life? How can we maintain our own bone health so we don’t suffer from weakened bones as we age?
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose their density and become brittle, causing them to break easily. Our bones are made of live tissue. Our bodies continuously make and lose bone tissue, but if we make too little, or lose far more than we make, our bones may become weak. When we are young, we make more bone tissue than we lose; this is vital because as we age, we begin to lose more bone than we make. If our bones were dense enough in our youth, then we are less likely to suffer from Osteoporosis. The hips, spine and wrist are most vulnerable and likely to break.
Who is at risk?
While everyone is at risk, some people are more likely to suffer from Osteoporosis. Women are more likely to be affected than men because their bones are naturally smaller and therefore less dense to begin with. Besides, women lose bone mass after menopause due to the drop in estrogen levels. Although men are at lower risk, they should not ignore the danger. While 1 in 2 women over the age of 50 breaks a bone due to Osteoporosis, the figure is 1 in 4 for men over 50. Older people, people of Caucasian and Asian descent and small-framed people are at higher risk of getting Osteoporosis. Poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also increase the risk of Osteoporosis.
How do I know if I have Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis generally develops gradually, and most people don’t know they have it until something happens. A broken bone may lead to a diagnosis during treatment. Easily broken bones are a symptom of Osteoporosis. It is possible to break a bone in the spine and not know it. A broken bone in the spine may causes pain or it may be painless but lead to a stooped posture and loss of height.
Should I get tested?
Osteoporosis is diagnosed using a bone mineral density (BMD) test. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends that women 65 and older and men 70 and older get tested. Besides, if you are over the age of 50 and have other risk factors, talk to your healthcare provider about testing. If you have broken a bone during a fall or other activity, it is also a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about testing to find out if you are at risk. People with low bone density are more likely to break a bone and are also at higher risk of developing Osteoporosis. If you discover this early, you can begin to take precautionary measures to prevent Osteoporosis.
What next if I am diagnosed with Osteoporosis?
Although Osteoporosis cannot be reversed, there are many things you can do to prevent injury. With the help of your healthcare provider, you can formulate a diet and a safe exercise plan to keep your bones from getting weaker. There are also medications that help prevent broken bones. You will also want to take extra precautions to avoid falling, such as wearing low-heeled shoes and using a non-skid mat in the shower or bathroom.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation website www.nof.org provides excellent advice for people living with Osteoporosis and can help identify a community support group in your area or an online support group.