Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become weak due to low mass and deterioration. This increases the possibility of fractures. It is estimated that 10 million Americans currently have this condition with an additional 34 million who have low bone density and therefore are at risk for developing osteoporosis or broken bones. One-half of women and one-quarter of men over the age of 50 will have a fracture related to osteoporosis. Twenty percent of the people in this age group who do suffer a hip fracture will die within one year of the injury.
“Most people do not know they have osteoporosis until they fracture or break a bone,” says Touchstone Health HMO Chief Medical Officer Mitchell Strand, M.D. “Bone density tests can help predict the likelihood of future fractures and loss of bone density. Touchstone Health provides coverage of bone mass measurements for older adults at risk of developing osteoporosis.”
Risk factors that increase the chance of osteoporosis include:
- Being female (women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone density after menopause making them more susceptible)
- Older age
- Family history of the disease
- History of broken bones
- Being small and thin
- Low sex hormones
- Diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Smoking and excessive alcohol
Our bones are constantly changing – continuously losing old bone and making new bone. Younger people make new bone faster than they lose old bone. Eighty-five to 90 percent of adult bone mass is developed by age 18 in females and 20 in males. At around age 30, bones reach their peak mass. After that, people may slowly start to lose more bone than they make.
Building strong bones early in life can help prevent osteoporosis as we age. Calcium and Vitamin D are essential minerals for the body because they help build stronger, denser bones early in life and keep our bones healthy as we age. People over age 50 should intake 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800-1000 IU of Vitamin D daily.
Studies indicate many Americans do not meet the current recommendations for sufficient calcium intake through their diets or through supplements. Nearly 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones and teeth. The best source of calcium comes from food such as low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese and certain green vegetables.
Weight-bearing workouts, such as tai chi, dancing, yoga, power walking, and stair climbing can help improve bone health. Aerobics, resistance exercises, and lifting weights can strengthen bones and also help reverse bone loss as we age.
“While most people consider osteoporosis a disease that impacts baby boomers or senior citizens, it’s the most common type of bone disorder and it can develop at any age,” says Strand. “However, osteoporosis can be prevented and treated. It’s important to talk to your physician about bone health and to have repeated bone scans.”