Osteoporosis: What You Need To Know To Have Strong Healthy Bones

Osteoporosis: What You Need To Know To Have Strong healthy Bones

Your bones are alive and constantly growing and changing throughout your life, with some bone cells dissolving and new bone cells growing back in a process called remodeling. With this lifelong turnover of bone cells we basically replace most of our skeleton every 10 years! In this article we will discuss what osteoporosis is, some common, as well as not so common, causes, and ways to treat and even prevent osteoporosis from occurring.

What is osteoporosis? As defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “osteoporosis is a medical condition in which bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D”. In other words, it is a condition in which bones become weak and brittle. This condition is very common, affecting more than 3 million people per year.

What causes osteoporosis? Technically speaking, osteoporosis occurs when there is an imbalance between new bone formation and old bone resorption. In layman’s terms this simply means that your body may fail to make enough new bone, or too much “old bone” may be reabsorbed, or both. However, some causes of osteoporosis may surprise you! Let’s explore some of the other causes of osteoporosis. You may be surprised at what you learn!

Osteoporosis has been called the “silent thief” as we age. According to WebMD, bone density is greatest when you are in your early 20’s. As we age, we can lose bone mass from a variety of factors and not even know it! Even though you probably already know that calcium is crucial for healthy bones, a low calcium diet is far from the only cause of this condition. Dr. Paul Mystkowski, MD is an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and clinical faculty member of the University of Washington in Seattle. He says that estrogen deficiency in women is one of the leading causes of osteoporosis, and that the bone loss can accelerate rapidly after menopause. According to Dr. Mystkowski, over time women tend to lose more bone that they replace, often resulting in increased fractures and osteoporosis. Another cause of osteoporosis that is not commonly associated with this condition is low testosterone in men.

A lack of calcium and/or lack of vitamin D are also common underlying causes of osteoporosis. Calcium is required by many organs in your body to function correctly. If you are not taking in enough calcium, your body will “steal” it from your bones, which can lead to fragile, brittle bones. Vitamin D is essential as well, as it helps your body to absorb and use calcium. Too little vitamin D can lead to weak bones and even bone loss. Thyroid conditions can also contribute to osteoporosis.

A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to osteoporosis. Bones weaken if they aren’t worked. For people who are sedentary, bone loss can happen rather quickly. Weight-bearing exercises that put gentle stress on your bones can help avoid this cause.

In addition to the above causes, certain medications, smoking, and even drinking alcohol can contribute to osteoporosis! The good news is that a lot of these causes are within your control so that you can have strong, healthy bones!

There are some risk factors that you cannot change. These include:
- Gender. Women get osteoporosis more often than men.
- Age. The older you are, the greater your risk.
- Body size. Small, thin women are at greater risk.
- Ethnicity. Black and Hispanic women are at lower risk for osteoporosis than White or Asian women.
- Family History. Osteoporosis tends to run in families.

So, you are probably wondering what you can do to prevent osteoporosis. It is easier than you think! By following these tips, you can reduce your risk and improve your bone health.

1. Eat a diet rich in vitamin D and calcium. Many people get less than half the calcium and vitamin D they need. By increasing your intake of Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese as well as orange juice, cereals, and breads you can increase the amount of calcium and vitamin D in your body.
2. Exercise. To increase your bone strength you can walk, hike, jog, climb stairs, even perform light weight lifting. Dancing is another fun way you can improve your bone strength.
3. Do not smoke, and do not drink alcohol in excess. Smoking is bad for bones as well as the heart and lungs. Also, people who drink a lot of alcohol are more prone to bone loss and broken bones due to poor diet and higher risk of falling.

Osteoporosis is called the “silent disease” because bone loss occurs with no signs. It is diagnosed by a Bone Mineral Density Test which can not only diagnose it, but can also check your bone strength as well as showing whether treatments are making your bones stronger.

Falls resulting in fractures or broken bones are often the first indicator that you may have osteoporosis. How can you prevent falls? First you need to identify the reasons you may be at higher risk for falls. Poor vision, poor balance, and some medications can increase your “fall risk”. Some recommendations to follow for your safety include using a cane or walker, wearing rubber-soled shoes to prevent slipping, keeping your home free of clutter, ensure that there is adequate lighting, and use a cordless phone or a cell phone to avoid tripping over cords.

Even though osteoporosis is very common, there are steps to reduce your risk and even improve bone health. For more information about osteoporosis and other related conditions, you can contact the National Resources Center for NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases toll free at 1-800-624-BONE (2663) or visit their website at http://www.bones.nih.gov.