Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by bones that have more empty spaces and less actual bone than is normal. The empty spaces result in a decrease in total bone mass, weakening the bones and making them fragile. One in three women and one in five men will suffer a fractured bone caused by osteoporosis during their lifetimes if steps are not taken to reduce the risk.
Steps to Help Prevent Osteoporosis
Although there may be a genetic component to osteoporosis, this condition is strongly influenced by poor eating habits, smoking and lack of exercise. Bone is not static. What you eat directly affects bone quality. Protein and calcium are essential, and Vitamin D is necessary to properly process calcium.
Smoking increases the risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering related bone fractures. It also slows healing. Secondhand smoke has much the same effect.
Weight-bearing exercise helps build bone. Such exercise is important for children as well as adults. A person's bone mass peaks by age 30, then slowly begins to decline. As little as 40 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to dramatically increase bone density in adolescents. The International Osteoporosis Foundation states, "It’s estimated a 10 per cent increase of peak bone mass in children can reduce the risk of an osteoporotic fracture during adult life by 50 per cent."
When to Diagnose and Treat Osteoporosis
Women often experience increased bone loss after menopause. This is due to a decrease in the production of estrogen, which has protective effects on bone. Long-term steroid use also increases risk. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that dual-edge X-ray absorptiometry or "DEXA" screening for osteoporosis begin at age 65 for women and age 70 for men who have no risk factors.
Early screening is desirable for anyone who has broken a bone without major trauma, whose back is misaligned or who is getting shorter. Other risk factors also exist. If you have any concerns, ask your doctor.
Besides ordering screening tests and helping you determine any changes you need to make in diet or exercise, doctors now can prescribe medicines to help reduce the effects of osteoporosis. The goal of these medicines is to strengthen bone and prevent or reduce fractures.
Help Available for New Jersey Residents
If you live in or near East Brunswick, New Jersey, call Mid Atlantic Orthopedic Associates for further information. Our doctors specialize in correcting impairments of the skeletal system and have the knowledge and skills you need to diagnose and treat osteoporosis. We work to prevent problems and help you stay healthy and active, no matter your age or the condition of your bones.