Osteoporosis: The Top Tactics to Prevent Low Bone Mass & Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis, a disease that leads to frail bones and an increased susceptibility to fractures, is a major U.S. public health threat on its way to reaching epidemic proportions on par with obesity and diabetes. Already, 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, but another 34 million have low bone mass, which puts them at an increased risk of developing the disease, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).
Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of green leafy vegetables, is one of the best ways to build bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
Although the disease can affect men, 80 percent of those inflicted are women. That means that of the 10 million people who have osteoporosis in the United States, 8 million are women and 2 million are men. This “silent killer” causes bone loss with no symptoms, and often people don’t know they have it until their bones are extremely weak and prone to fractures.
Why is Osteoporosis Increasing?
Osteoporosis often manifests in those over the age of 50 (although it can strike any age), and as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, more and more of us are passing this threshold. For women, this age is so monumental because up to 20 percent of bone mass can be lost in the five to seven years following menopause, which increases the risk of osteoporosis substantially, says the NOF.
But, surprisingly, the most crucial ages for bone health are not the “golden years” — by the time a woman has reached the age of 20, she’s already acquired about 98 percent of her skeletal mass. So, the best time to build your bones, and set up your defense against this potentially debilitating disease later, is actually during childhood and adolescence.
Major Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, the following risk factors could increase your risk of osteoporosis:
“We (generally) build bone up until 20 to 25 years of age and start losing mass at about age 35 … But doctors are currently finding low bone mass in children as young as 14 years old,” said Kim Clark, RN, BSN.
The increasing incidences of low bone mass, and in younger and younger ages, may be due to the less-than-optimal standard American diet, including its lack of calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones.
By 2025, “half of all Americans over the age of 50 will have osteoporosis, if we don’t change our dietary patterns,” said Clark. “Americans are predominantly living on dense calories without dense nutrients, like sugars, refined carbohydrates and fried foods–all with a lack of calcium … And pop has phosphorus in it, which, in large amounts, leaches calcium from the body.”
Who’s Most at Risk, and How can Osteoporosis be Prevented?
Along with age, there are many other factors that can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. Take a look at the list to the right for a complete list, but some of the major ones include a family history of the disease, having a small body frame and being thin, being female, not getting enough calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, folic acid, or vitamin D in your diet, inactivity, excessive drinking and cigarette smoking.
Further, according to Clark, “Bulimia or anorexia, kidney disease, use of thyroid medicine or Dilantin, chronic use of antacids that contain aluminum and malabsorption syndromes including chronic diarrhea, Crohn’s disease and surgical removal of the stomach and/or intestines may contribute to development of osteoporosis.”
However, no matter how many risk factors you may have (or not have), there are steps you can take to strengthen your bones and decrease your risk of osteoporosis, no matter what your age. These include:
1. Eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin D. This includes fruits, vegetables (green leafy vegetables and broccoli are great sources of calcium!), dairy products and more. Vitamin D can also be obtained through sensible sun exposure. Remember that a healthy diet is important for kids’ bone health too! If you’re concerned that your diet isn’t providing you with enough of the minerals your body needs, make an appointment to access your potential deficiencies and possible supplements that could significantly impact preventing and reversing post-menopausal bone loss, plus the added benefit of long-lasting effects in the increase of bone density.
2. Getting plenty of weight-bearing exercise. These exercises (jogging, walking, yoga, kick boxing, weight lifting, etc.) can help build bone mass.
3. Not smoking or drinking excessively. People who drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day and those who smoke currently may increase their risk of this disease.
4. Bone density testing. If concerned make an appointment to discuss a possible bone density test to identify if it could help you determine whether a bone mass measurement (also called bone mineral density or BMD test) is necessary. The test measures your bone density so you know if it’s within the normal range for your age or if you’re at risk of a fracture. You and your doctor can then determine the best course of action to take to protect your bone health.
There’s New Hope via New Stem Cell Therapy Treatments Being Researched
Stem cell treatments are a new frontier using the body’s own attributes.
One study from the University of Toronto has reported potential results from testing done with mice: “Stem cell therapy reverses age-related osteoporosis in mice”
Some leading doctors with stem cell experience, like Dr. Dan Tiracca, could become part of the next steps in working with patients who have appropriate scenarios for testing and assessing levels of improvements.
The future looks bright for forthcoming advancements such as stem cell therapy research.