Osteoporosis and low-bone mass affects a whopping 54 million people.
Ten million actually have the condition while another 44 million have low-bone density, which puts them at increased risk. This means that half of all adults over the age of 50 are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health says the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
"We have our blood pressure checked regularly, and our cholesterol levels measured, but too many of us ignore screening for bone health," Dr. E. Michael Lewiecki, M.D., director of the New Mexico Clinical Research and Osteoporosis center, tells Newsmax. "Elevated blood pressure can lead to a stroke while elevated cholesterol levels may lead to a heart attack. Low bone density can lead to hip fractures, which can also be deadly. "
The National Osteoporosis Foundation has a lot of tips and information about how you can prevent, manage and even reverse the potentially debilitating disease.
Studies show that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
"This can seriously affect your independence and lifestyle," notes Lewiecki.
Risk factors include some that are uncontrollable and some that involve lifestyle behaviors.
Uncontrollable risk factors:
- Being over the age of 50.
- Being female.
- Family history of osteoporosis.
- Low body weight or being too thin.
- Broken bones or height loss.
Controllable risk factors:
- Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D.
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
- Getting too much protein, sodium and caffeine.
- Having an inactive lifestyle.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
- Losing weight.
"It's important to note that osteoporosis and the broken bones it can cause are NOT part of normal aging," NOF Chief Marketing Officer Claire Gill tells Newsmax. "There is a lot you can do to protect your bones throughout life. Osteoporosis prevention should begin in childhood, but it doesn't stop there. Whatever your age, the habits you adopt now can affect your bone health for the rest of your life."
Lewiecki recommends that all women over the age of 65 and men over the age of 70 get screened annually.
"And if you've suffered previous bone fractures, screening should begin at age 50," he says.
There are medications used to treat osteoporosis. One type helps rebuild new bone, while another slows down bone cells to allow more calcium absorption and prevent more loss.
"It's kind of a one-two punch," notes Lewiecki.
Osteoporosis usually has no symptoms until the person fractures a bone, which is why it is nicknamed "the silent disease."
"We see people who have lost height or are slumped over and take an x-ray of the spine and sure enough there is a fracture," says Lewiecki. "Two thirds of people with spinal fracture don't even know they have them. That's why it is so important to discuss bone health with your doctor."
Harvard Medical School researchers noted that calcium is an important nutrient for building bone and slowing the pace of bone loss, but it's not a "magic bullet." It needs its indispensable assistant, vitamin D, to help the body absorb calcium.
Experts recommend taking 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily for adults up to age 50 and 1,200 milligrams for people aged 51 and older when bone loss accelerates. Fortified foods can help provide the vitamin D your need to absorb calcium efficiently or you can manufacture your own by spending 5 to 30 minutes in the sun daily, making sure arms and legs are exposed.
Exercise is also an important component of bone health. But always check with your healthcare provider to ensure you embark upon a safe program.
"You may want to avoid high impact weight bearing exercises like jogging, running, or jumping rope if you are increased risk of fracture," Gill said. "Low-impact weight bearing exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative. Elliptical machines and fast walking on a treadmill or outdoors are two examples."
In addition, she recommends lifting weights or using exercise bands to offer resistance against gravity and build stronger bones.
"Osteoporosis is manageable," she says. "Although there is no cure, there are steps you can take to prevent, slow down or stop its progress. In some cases, you may even be able to improve bone density and reverse the disorder to some degree."
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