You’re not sleeping tonight after you read this. Don’t say
May is National Osteopororis Month, which is a terrible occasion to celebrate but brings awareness to a disease than plagues millions of old and young people. What are the risk factors, and what can you do to protect yourself? Here are some facts:
1. A “silent disease”: Osteoporosis is a condition that results in thin, weakened, and easily broken bones (even from a minor fall or collision). Most people don’t realize their bones are growing thinner until something breaks.
2. Osteoporosis is a major public health threat: An estimated 50% of people over age 50 suffer from either osteoporosis or low bone mass (often referred to as “osteopenia”) Osteopenia is often a precursor to osteoporosis, although not everyone with the former develops the latter.
3. Osteoporosis isn’t only for older people: Up to 15% of college-aged females display low enough bone density that they are considered at high risk for the disease (sooner rather than later). Poor nutrition, restrictive diets, and menstrual irregularities often contribute to these cases.
4. Even Gwyneth Paltrow isn’t immune to low bone mass: at age 37, Goop was diagnosed with osteopenia after suffering “a pretty severe tibial plateau fracture a few years ago (requiring surgery) which lead the orthopaedic surgeon to give me a bone scan, at which point it was discovered I had the beginning stages of osteopenia.”
5. Some risk factors are unavoidable: Women (especially slight, thin women) are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. White and Asian women carry a greater risk for osteoporosis than Black and Hispanic women. The disease also runs in families.
6. Other risk factors can be mitigated: Low estrogen levels (in women) and anorexia nervosa increase osteopororis risk. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol can also contribute to bone loss, as can the phosphoric acid found in many diet sodas.
7. The importance of diet: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can ward off bone loss. Calcium rich foods include dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, fish, and calcium-fortified grains. The mineral magnesium also aids in absorption of calcium.
8. Weight-bearing activity helps build strong bones: Working against gravity helps bones increase in density. Aerobic activity like walking and dancing can be very effective, and strength-training exercises add a sturdy, bone-boosting effect. For older exercisers, Tai Chi can help increase balance and minimize the possiblity of clumsy falls.
9. Age always increases the likelihood of osteoporosis: Bone density often peaks (for both men and women) at age 30 and declines every year after without proper precautions like diet and exercise. Women generally lose the most bone density during the first 5 years after menopause (which occurs, on average, at age 51).
10. Bone mineral density tests are invaluable: This test can act as the first line of defense against a developing case of osteoporosis. BMD levels are graded as T-scores. A -2.5 or below score arrives with an official diagnosis of osteoporosis.