As we all age, our bones become thinner. This isn’t just a sign of aging, but is a disease known as osteoporosis. Preventing osteoporosis is something you hear about, but did you know there’s another disease similar to osteoporosis that’s just as dangerous called osteopenia?
Very few people understand how widespread osteopenia and osteoporosis are. In the United States, about 8 million women and 2 million men have thin bones, or a condition called osteoporosis, and another 34 million Americans have low bone mass, also known as osteopenia.
Osteopenia is a reduction in bone mass that is lower than a normal bone mass. This is a precursor to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition marked by low bone mass, a thinning of the bone, which can lead to a weakening of the bone architecture and increased susceptibility to fracture – typically of the hip, wrist or spine.
But how do we recognize these diseases? What are their risks? How do we slow down their symptoms? How do we recognize their warning signs? More importantly, how do we treat it?
Smoking impacts a person at risk for developing osteoporosis. Cigarette smoke generates huge amounts of free radicals — molecules that attack and overwhelm the body’s natural defenses. The result is a chain-reaction of damage throughout the body, including cells, organs and hormones involved in keeping bones healthy. Smoking triggers other bone-damaging changes, such as increased levels of the hormone cortisol, which leads to bone breakdown. Because those who smoke have weakened bones, they are likely to experience exercise-related injuries such as fractures, breaks or sprains. Also, a person who smokes is more likely to have a longer recovery period and greater risk of complications following any sustained injuries than someone who doesn’t smoke.
Quit Excessive Alcohol Use
Alcohol interferes most with bone formation by inhibiting adequate calcium absorption. Alcohol interferes with the pancreas and its absorption of calcium and vitamin D. Alcohol also affects the liver thereby inhibiting activation of, vitamin D, Vitamin D is needed to aid in Calcium absorption. As with smoking, excessive alcohol use has a wide range of damaging health effects for any person, but is particularly damaging for persons at risk for osteoporosis. The good news: when someone quits drinking, bones may recover fairly rapidly. Some studies have found that lost bone can be partially restored when alcohol abuse ends.
Improve Diet and Exercise
The importance of exercise in the fight against osteoporosis cannot be underestimated. Changing to a healthier diet can have little effect on bone mass when not combined with regular exercise. Starting the right kind of exercise in combination with other preventive measures like appropriate diet can help build bone mass especially in high risk fracture sites like the wrist, hip and spine.
Increase Calcium Intake
Sufficient amounts of calcium are required for bone strength. The body uses calcium for the heart, blood, muscles and nerves. Without the proper amount of calcium intake, the body will strip calcium from the bones where it is stored, causing the bones to get weaker. It is estimated that 55% of men and 78% of women over age 20 in the U.S. do not get enough calcium in their diet. It is important to note that since the human body cannot produce its own calcium, adequate calcium intake is critical in the battle against osteoporosis. To learn which type and how much is best for you, contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Navigating the aging process does not need to be cumbersome or cause you unnecessary worry. That is why it is best to create a relationship with your doctor where you can be free to ask questions and discuss your concerns openly.
Dr. Raman is focused on holistic care, a pleasant office experience and good health maintenance. Dr.Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on caring for each patient’s individual needs with comprehensive, individualized treatment options and health programs. Our office is committed to your health, and helping you find the best solutions for you and your particular needs.