Explaining osteoporosis: Facts and tips for prevention

Explaining osteoporosis: Facts and tips for prevention

Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 8:01 pm
By: Jessica Wootton, Special to The Press

By Jessica Wootton

Special to The Press

When someone thinks about staying healthy, normally they do not think about keeping their bones healthy. Osteoporosis is a serious disease, and it is becoming more prevalent every day. The National Osteoporosis Foundation states, “About 10 million Americans already have the disease, and about 34 million are at risk.” When they say at risk it means that a person is more likely to get this disease. They also state that, “estimates suggest that about half of all women older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, and up to one in four men will too.” The National Osteoporosis Foundation also states that in 2005, osteoporosis was responsible for an estimated two million fractures and 19 billion in cost, and by 2025, experts think that it will be responsible for approximately three million fractures and 25.3 billion in cost each year.  This disease is not something that should be taken lightly.

Osteoporosis is a term that means porous bone. The bone normally looks like a honeycomb, but a bone with osteoporosis has bigger holes in it. The larger holes make the bone loose density and mass, which makes the bone much weaker and easier to break.

This disease can cause the simplest tasks to become complicated. Tasks such as  lifting a child, bending down to pick up a newspaper, bumping into furniture, even squeezing can cause the bones to break. In serious condition even sneezing caused a bone to break. The majority of the breaks occur in the hips, wrists, and vertebral column. Another shocking statistic from the NOF is, “20 percent of seniors who break a bone die within one year from problems related to the broken bone itself or surgery to repair it.” If these patients survive normally they need long-term nursing home care.

There are many risk factors to be aware of when dealing with this disease. Age is a really common risk factor. The older the individual, the more likely they will be affected.  Whether, a person is male or female has a great impact on the chance of them having osteoporosis. 

First of all women have smaller, thinner bones than men. Also women loose bone quickly after menopause because estrogen is not produced in large amounts like it used too and estrogen helps protect the bones. The ovaries make the most estrogen, and without them there is a greater chance to develop osteoporosis.  NOF says that, “about one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.” Also one’s family history plays a major role in this disease. Low body weight and being thin can make individuals’ chances of having osteoporosis increase.  A sign that someone may have osteoporosis is when he or she has broken a bone or have lost and inch or more in his or her height. When bones break in the spine it can be painless, but these breaks cause the person to become shorter.  

There are also risk factors that deal with lifestyle. Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D will definitely cause the bones to become weaker. Calcium is the building block for bones. A diet full of fruits and vegetables will help keep bones healthy. Some other lifestyle risk factors are having an inactive lifestyle, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and losing weight. 

Losing weight is a good thing, but if a dieter is limiting themselves from all the proper nutrients specifically calcium and vitamin D it can be harmful to the bones.

A healthy diet that contains the right amount of vitamins and nutrients is a great prevention for osteoporosis. Some of the important foods that you should consume in order to have healthy bones are dairy products, fish, fortified foods, and fruits and vegetables. There are also foods that can make your body not absorb calcium, and these are beans, meats, salty foods, and spinach. Dairy products are high in calcium.  Some good dairy sources are non-fat and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese. Fish is also full of calcium. The fish that has the most calcium is canned sardines and salmon. Also salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines are full of vitamin D. Fortified foods are a great option to make sure you get the right amount of vitamin D and calcium. There are certain brands of juices, breakfast foods, soy milk, rice milk, cereal, snacks, and breads that have been fortified. Fruits and vegetables are always a good option for any diet, and are definitely beneficial to prevent osteoporosis because they contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Beans are full of nutrients, but they interfere with calcium absorption.  Meat is also good for a healthy diet, but a diet high in protein can make the body lose calcium. Salty food also causes the body to lose calcium. Any more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day can be detrimental to a person. Lastly, spinach does not allow your body to absorb calcium because of the oxalate in it.  

Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption. Children need vitamin D to build stronger bones, and adults need it to keep bones strong and healthy. If there is not a sufficient amount of vitamin D it will result in bone loss. If there is severe vitamin D deficiency it can cause osteomalacia, which is when the bone becomes soft. Children can also get this and it is called rickets. The recommended amount of vitamin D is 400-800 mg for adults under the age of 50, and 800-1,000 for adults over the age of 50. Vitamin D recommendations can be met by supplements and medications, food, and sunlight.  Skin makes vitamin D by the UV rays. The amount that the body makes depends on the time of day, season, latitude, and skin pigmentation. Sunlight is not the main source of vitamin D because of the risk of cancer everyone wears sunscreen which prevents them from getting vitamin D from the sun.  

Calcium makes up 99 percent of our bones and teeth. This mineral is necessary for life.  Not only does it help with bones, but it also helps clot blood, nerves send messages, and muscles contract. Everyday calcium is lost through the skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine, and feces. Adults age 50 and older need 1,200 mg of calcium a day, and adults under the age of 50 need 1,000 mg a day. If an individual takes too much calcium from supplements it may cause kidney stones and other health problems. When buying a supplement, liquid and chewable supplements dissolve better because they are easier to be absorbed into the bones. It is important to only take calcium in amounts of 500-600 mg so it can absorb better.

Exercise is beneficial to an individual with osteoporosis. Exercising makes the bones stronger and bigger just like muscles. There are two types of exercising – weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening. Weight-bearing includes dancing, running, doing the elliptical machine, and fast walking. Muscle-strengthening includes; lifting weight, lifting your own body weight, and using weight machines.  

The bone mineral density test can be performed to check for osteoporosis before these symptoms become a reality. 

If it is caught early it can help prevent bones from breaking.  Osteoporosis is serious, but if more people were aware of the disease the numbers and statistics could be drastically reduced. 

Jessica Wootton is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin with a specialization in dietetics/food and nutrition.



wcp 3/1/11

Leave a Comment