Shelina Bonner, Family & Consumer Sciences Agent
Greene County Cooperative Extension
April 27, 2017 Posted Date: April 27, 2017
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that can occur as adults age. This disease is responsible for over a million broken bones each year, and is a major cause of fractures, back pain, spinal problems and loss of independence, in seniors.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
Osteoporosis has risk factors that cannot be changed.
Gender is one of the risk factors. In their formative years, males generally build larger, thicker, denser bones than females. After middle age, both men and women lose bone mass and do so at the same rate. However, since their bones are thicker at peak density, men have many more years of losing calcium before their bones become frail and thin. For women, bone loss accelerates after menopause, when estrogen levels fall.
Race-In general African-Americans develop stronger and thicker bones than Caucasians and Asians. African-Americans generally average a 10 percent higher bone mass than Caucasians, but this does not always hold true because some African-Americans are small and thin-boned.
Genetics-Genetics is involved in the development of bones and in the tendency to lose or retain bone over a lifetime. If one family member has had problems with thin, frail bones, other members may be at greater risk of developing weak bones.
Factors We Can Change
Weight-bearing exercise—Bone development is stimulated when bones are under pressure. As a result, the bones of physically active individuals are usually stronger and thicker than the bones of inactive people. Normal activities, such as walking, running, or dancing, help everyone build and keep strong bones. Bones of people who are totally inactive (such as those of an astronaut in space, those in a cast, or those in people who are bedridden) lose calcium and decrease in strength and size. This can happen fairly rapidly even to those who had previously been exercising because the effects of exercise on this process cannot be stored. For example, for every week a person spends in bed, about one percent of bone mass will be lost. Therefore, daily exercise and lifelong activity are the keys to building and retaining strong bones.
Bones of heavy people are usually stronger and thicker than bones of lightweight people because weight puts more physical strain on bones, causing greater formation of bone. More weight-bearing exercise occurs when a heavy person walks than when a lightweight one does. However, the location of the body fat is a mediating factor and heavy people can have thin bones. Being more than 10 percent under “ideal” body weight increases the chance of having thin bones
Proper diet plays a major role in bone development and retention. Since bone is made up mostly of proteins, minerals, and water, lacking any of these will keep bones from forming properly. People typically get enough of these to take care of bone needs, but they don’t always consume enough calcium or vitamin D. The body needs calcium for other functions and the stored calcium in bone is removable. Therefore, when our bodies are low in calcium, it is withdrawn and used where needed. As a consequence, bones will be weakened or, if this occurs during a growth period, bones may not develop adequately. So, adequate calcium is crucial to bone health. Equally important, vitamin D from the diet or sunlight is critical to the absorption and utilization of dietary calcium.
Remember to take these steps to build strong bones or to prevent further bone loss:
• Eat a calcium-rich, balanced diet based on the MyPlate.
• Get plenty of weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, aerobics, tennis, dancing, and team sports. Exercise three or more days a week, 30 minutes each time, or in three 10-minute segments over the course of the day.
• Get 10 to 15 minutes of daily exposure to sunshine on hands, arms, and face.
• Start eating right, getting weight-bearing exercise, and getting daily expo-sure to sunlight in your youth and continue throughout your life.
• Gain weight if you are underweight and your physician thinks you should.
• Ask your doctor about hormone replacement therapy if you are female and have no menses.
• Don’t smoke.
• Limit alcohol and phosphorus-and caffeine-rich foods and drinks.
• Consider taking a vitamin-mineral supplement that includes calcium and vitamin D.
For additional foods, health and nutrition information, contact Shelina Bonner, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Greene County Center at (252) 747-5831.