Can you define osteoporosis and the accompanying risks of having this condition?
Osteoporosis is a disorder of the skeletal system characterized by weakened bone strength. This weakening of the bones puts an individual at risk for developing a fracture. In the United States, approximately 10 million people are believed to have osteoporosis, and another 18 million are at increased risk for developing osteoporosis as a result of low bone mass. Although osteoporosis was once thought to be a disorder of elderly women, it is no longer considered to be a natural part of aging or a disease solely affecting women. In fact, two million men in the US currently have osteoporosis and millions more are at risk for developing the disease. Men and woman in their teens throughout there life need to be alert to osteoporosis prevention.
Francine:What preventive exercises or lifestyle choices can we take to avoid osteoporosis?
Men and women in their teens through early thirties are at the peak period for bone development. Good eating habits during this time period is important. In particular, getting enough calcium and vitamin D is crucial. Without calcium and vitamin D, the body lacks the essential building block of the bone and strong bones cannot be formed. Additionally, exercise, particularly resistance-based and high-impact exercise, is also necessary because it increases bone density. Weight-bearing exercise, such as strength training or aerobic fitness, creates strong dense, bones.
Ok Faith, what about those of us that have passed our teens and twenties!?
For those beyond their thirties, maintenance of bone mass is essential. Just as exercise and healthy eating create healthy bones, exercise and healthy eating also prevent bone loss. Everyone is at risk for bone loss, but Caucasian and Asian women are at the highest risk and therefore must take extra precautions. Certain individuals may benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplement and others may require prescription medication. Please discuss this with your doctor if you think you are at risk.
Therefore, everyone should be eating diets high in calcium and be sure to obtain vitamin D. Foods high in calcium include milk products, leafy green vegetables, sardines, salmon, tofu, and almonds. Most people can get enough vitamin D from being in direct sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times weekly.
Sounds like food and low sun exposure is key. And exercise?
In addition to eating well, general exercises are essential in creating strong bones and preventing bone destruction. Both aerobic and strength training facilitates strong muscles. An interesting study evaluating the effectiveness of exercise on osteoporosis found that not only did the participants decrease their degree of osteoporosis, but also they had greater strength and endurance, reduced back pain, and improved lipid levels. If you would like to read more about this study, please http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0215/p796.html.
Thanks Faith! I hope this conversation encourages everyone to take their health in their own hands by eating well and committing to their fitness routine!
Sources: Hellekson, K (2002). NIH Releases Statement on Osteoporosis Prevention, Diagnosis, and Therapy.American Family Physician.66(1):161-162.
Kemmler W, et al. (2004) Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women. Results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study (EFOPS). Archives of Internal Medicine. 164:1084–91.