Why is bone health so important? Our bones support us and allow us to move. They protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury. Our bones also store minerals such as calcium and phosphorous, which help keep our bones strong, and release them into the body when we need them for other uses.
There are many things we can do to keep our bones healthy and strong. Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting plenty of exercise, and having good health habits help keep our bones healthy.
But if we don’t eat right and don’t get enough of the right kinds of exercise, our bones can become weak and even break. Broken bones (called fractures) can be painful and sometimes need surgery to heal. They can also cause long-lasting health problems.
But the good news is that it is never too late to take care of your bones.
There are many kinds of bone diseases. The most common one is OSTEOPOROSIS (AH-stee-oh-por-OH-sis). Scientists don’t yet know exactly why osteoporosis occurs, but they do know that the normal bone remodeling process is disrupted. With osteoporosis, our bones become weak and are more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the wrist, spine, and hip.
Your bone is continuously changing — new bone is made and old bone is broken down (resorption) — a process called remodeling or bone turnover. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone and your bone mass increases. You reach your peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more than you gain.
Many of our patients here in Kailua have weak bones and don’t even know it. That’s because bone loss often happens over a long period of time and doesn’t hurt. For many people, a broken bone is the first sign that they have osteoporosis.
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends on how much bone mass you attained in your 20s and early 30s (peak bone mass) and how rapidly you lose it later. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
The strength of your bones depends on their size and density; bone density depends in part on the amount of calcium, phosphorus and other minerals bones contain. When your bones contain fewer minerals than normal, they’re less strong and eventually lose their internal supporting structure.
Other factors, such as hormone levels, also affect bone density. In women, when estrogen levels drop at menopause, bone loss increases dramatically. In men, low estrogen and testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
Osteoporosis Risk factors you CAN change
Low calcium intake. A lifelong lack of calcium plays a major role in the development of osteoporosis. Low calcium intake contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
Tobacco use. The exact role tobacco plays in osteoporosis isn’t clearly understood, but researchers do know that tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
Eating disorders. Women and men with anorexia nervosa or bulimia are at higher risk of lower bone density.
Sedentary lifestyle. People who spend a lot of time sitting have a higher risk of osteoporosis than their more-active counterparts. Any weight-bearing exercise is beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing and weightlifting seem particularly helpful for creating healthy bones.
Excessive alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of more than two alcoholic drinks a day increases your risk of osteoporosis, possibly because alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Corticosteroid medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, cortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, is damaging to bone. These medications are common treatments for chronic conditions, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and you may not be able to stop taking them to lessen your risk of osteoporosis. If you need to take a steroid medication for long periods, your doctor should monitor your bone density and recommend other drugs to help prevent bone loss.
Other medications. Long-term use of aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, the antidepressant medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the cancer treatment drug methotrexate, some anti-seizure medications, the acid-blocking drugs called proton pump inhibitors and aluminum-containing antacids are all associated with an increased risk of
Risk factors you CAN NOT change
Being a woman. Fractures from osteoporosis are almost twice as common in women as they are in men.
Getting older. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
Race. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent.
Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
Frame size. Men and women who are exceptionally thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.
Thyroid hormone. Too much thyroid hormone also can cause bone loss. This can occur either because your thyroid is overactive (hyperthyroidism) or because you take excess amounts of thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
Medical conditions and procedures that affect bone health. Stomach surgery (gastrectomy) and weight-loss surgery can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium. So can conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, hyperparathyroidism and Cushing’s disease — a rare disorder in which your adrenal glands produce excessive corticosteroid hormones.
How to know if you have Osteoporosis:
Since osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until a bone breaks, it is important to talk to your doctor about your bone health. If your doctor feels that you are at risk for osteoporosis, he or she may order a bone density test. A bone density test measures how strong–or dense–your bones are and whether you have osteoporosis. It can also tell you what your chances are of breaking a bone. Bone density tests are quick, safe, and painless.
What Can I Do to Make My Bones Healthier?
It is never too early or too late to take care of your bones. The following steps can help you improve your bone health:
- Eat a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Get plenty of physical activity.
- Live a healthy lifestyle.
- Talk to your doctor about your bone health.
- Prevent falls.
Bone health is important for many reasons. The risk of fracture can lead to expensive surgery and long lasting overall health effects.
At Oahu Spine & Rehab, we believe in a holistic approach to health. Taking care of your bones can have a positive outcome on your overall health and your bottom line!
Source: National Institutes for Health & Mayo Clinic.