In the United States, more than 40 million people either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass.
If a person has osteoporosis, they have progressive bone loss that puts them at risk for broken bones. In fact, a broken bone can be a warning sign for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a contributing factor in about 1.5 million bone fractures a year.
“Osteoporosis is technically decreased density or calcium in bone,” said Dr. Bharat Desai with Panorama Orthopedics & Spine Center in metro Denver. “Osteoporosis is a dysfunction in how calcium is processed, but it’s not necessarily just a lack of calcium that you’re taking in. It’s a little bit more complicated than that.”
Although the exact cause of osteoporosis is not know, a variety of contributing factors have been identified, including aging, heredity, nutrition and lifestyle, and even some medications such as steroids.
“Calcium is not getting put down into the bone correctly, or staying there,” explains Dr. Desai. “Either not enough is getting in, not enough is becoming bone, or too much is being leached out.”
So what can you do?
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends taking the following steps:
- Ensure your diet contains enough calcium (1,000 to 1,500 mg) and vitamin D (400 to 800 units).
- Regularly exercise and participate in activities that strengthen bone and muscle, such as walking, jogging or playing tennis.
- Improve your balance to reduce your risk of falling.
Dr. Desai echoed those recommendations at his seminar, but also encouraged caution with exercising.
“In this society, we tend to do things in excess, thinking that if exercise is good, the more exercise I do, the better. That’s actually not true,” He said. “What your body needs is a certain amount.”