Osteoporosis, a potentially debilitating disease that leads to weakening
bones, affects over 25 million people in the U.S. It’s also a major
cause of bone fractures in seniors and in post-menopausal women. The Society
of Cardiovascular and Interventional Radiology (SCVIR) says that osteoporosis
causes 700,000 fractures of the vertebrae each year.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation says two things help make someone
more susceptible to osteoporosis:
- how much bone mass you develop during childhood and adolescence
- how fast you lose that bone mass as an adult
Gender plays a role too. Women, who tend to have smaller bones than men,
are usually more at risk of osteoporosis. But that doesn’t mean
men can’t develop this problem too. Therefore, it’s a good
idea for everyone to learn about osteoporosis – how you can try
to prevent it and how you can treat it.
Preventing Osteoporosis – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
says there are many risk factors for osteoporosis that we can’t
change. Among the things that can put someone at a higher risk are:
- being Caucasian
- being post-menopausal
- having family members with osteoporosis or a history of broken bones
But some things we can control. One is the amount of exercise we get. According
to the International Association of Fitness Professionals, weight-bearing
exercise, such as walking or weight training, can help develop stronger
bones. Although it’s important to avoid over-stressing the bones,
this type of exercise can help develop bone strength especially during
the teens and early twenties. In addition, many experts think that even
after menopause, a program of moderate exercise can help slow bone loss,
although it’s always important to talk with your doctor before starting
an exercise program, especially if you already have osteoporosis.
Diet is one of the other things we can control. Calcium and vitamin D are
the key nutrients for helping to build strong bones. For those over the
age of one, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends, depending on your
age, sex and other health issues, between 700 and 1300 milligrams per
day of calcium. You should discuss with your healthcare provider what
your needs are. For those over the age of one, IOM also says the upper
intake level for calcium is between 2000 and 3000 milligrams per day.
Once again, it depends on your age and other health factors how much calcium
you should be getting. Upper intake levels represent the upper safe boundary
and should not be misunderstood as amounts people need or should strive
to consume, according to IOM.
Dairy products are a leading source of calcium, but if you don’t
tolerate dairy products, or if you simply don’t get enough calcium
in your normal diet, ask a doctor or registered dietitian about supplements
and/or lactose-free products. If you do take supplements, the American
Medical Association suggests that calcium supplements be taken in divided
doses of no more than 500 to 600 mg at a time, for best absorption.
Vitamin D is also important. For those over the age of one, IOM recommends,
depending on your age, sex and other health issues, between 600 and 800
international units (IUs) of vitamin D per day to maintain health. Once
again, you should discuss with your healthcare provider what your needs
are. For those over the age of one, IOM also says the upper intake level
for vitamin D is between 2500 and 4000 IUs per day, depending on your
age and other health factors. A doctor may decide someone needs to take
supplements in order to get enough of this vitamin, particularly if the
person spends a large amount of time indoors and away from sunlight, which
helps the body produce vitamin D.
Many women are concerned about potential risks associated with hormone
use. If you’re concerned about your risk of osteoporosis, or if
you already have been diagnosed with this disease, a qualified doctor
can advise you about hormonal as well as non-hormonal options, to help
keep your bones in good shape for life. The National Osteoporosis Foundation
says there are several medical treatments available as options. For example,
hormone replacement therapy replaces the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone
that a menopausal woman’s body no longer makes in effective quantities.
There are also medications and hormonal-like drugs being used to treat
If you suspect you’re at risk of osteoporosis, ask your primary care
doctor about getting tested. For help finding a provider, call the CVMC
Physician Referral line at 828.485.2300.