Osteoporosis effects 10 million people in the United States and another 34 million Americans are at risk of osteopenia, or low bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone mass and poor bone quality. While the condition is primarily associated with women, men are now screened for osteoporosis if they have qualifying risk factors. The decrease of estrogen in women during menopause and a decrease in testosterone in older men is the leading cause of bone loss.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- Decreased Calcium and Vitamin D intake
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Prolonged use of medications like anticonvulsants and corticosteroids
- Less than 30 minutes a day of weight-bearing exercises like walking, running, dancing, yoga, or playing tennis
The frequency of fractures in the hip, spine, and wrist are increased with Osteoporosis. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Mayo Clinic recognize 1.5 million fractures attributed to Osteoporosis annually, including 350 thousand hip fractures. Maintaining healthy bone mass throughout your lifetime is important to prevent broken bones and secondary injuries associated with osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis can result in lost work time or the inability to perform daily living activities. Seventy percent of people suffering from osteoporosis never return to the level of activity and health status prior to injury. The financial burden of osteoporosis-related fractures can be costly for the patient, family members, or caregivers. Broken bones force inactivity, which creates secondary complications such as weight gain, poor circulation, and other health concerns that accompany a sedentary lifestyle.
Testing for Osteoporosis is a simple bone mineral density assessment, most often by a DEXA scan, which measures your bone mineral density. This test diagnoses bone loss, osteoporosis, and can assist in predicting your risk for future bone fractures. The assessment should be performed annually or semi-annually depending on your physician’s recommendation. The DEXA scan can help in determine how effective dietary changes, exercise increase, dietary supplements, and medications have been to combat additional bone loss and increasing bone mass accumulation. A spine or hip x-ray may also be required if your physician is concerned about fractures or collapse of the spinal bones. Additional blood and urine tests may be performed if your osteoporosis is thought to be due to a medical condition, rather than bone loss associated with older age.
A diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin D is essential for strong bones. Calcium and Vitamin D are available in many common foods and dietary supplements.
Common foods include:
- Fortified Cereals
Calcium is necessary to build new bone and Vitamin D helps your body absorb Calcium.
- Adults < 50 Daily Recommendation: 1,000 mg of Calcium, 400 - 800 IU Vitamin D
- Women 51-70 Daily Recommendation: 1,200 mg Calcium, 400 - 800 IU Vitamin D
- Men 51- 70 Daily Recommendation: 1,000 mg Calcium, 400 - 800 IU Vitamin D
- Adults 70+ Daily Recommendation: 1,200 mg Calcium, 800 IU Vitamin D
Depending on your individual health concerns the amount of Calcium your doctor recommends may be less; especially if you have a history of kidney stones and Atherosclerosis. Your doctor may also recommend a higher amount of daily Vitamin D or as a prescription taken once a week depending on bone mineral assessment results and a blood test for Vitamin D. Other nutrients shown to be supportive in maintaining or increasing bone density include Silica and Strontium. A combination approach of lifestyle changes and regular assessments to address Osteoporosis and Osteopenia can help you stay fit and active for many years to come!