May is National Osteoporosis Month, highlighting a common, serious, and costly disease – and one that can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures. Luckily, with early diagnosis and treatment, we can help you prevent osteoporosis or reduce your risk for fractures.
Our bodies are in a constant state of breakdown and repair. From vital organs like our heart and our lungs, to our blood and our many cells, our body is always replacing the old with the new and repairing damage. Our bones are no different and need constant care to keep our body’s safe and healthy.
Calcium, and many other essential minerals, are used by the body to complete many important actions – from allowing us to contract our muscles to allowing our heart to beat. When we do not get enough calcium from our diet for these activities to occur, our body takes some from our bones. While this isn’t harmful if done occasionally, it can leave your bones weak and fragile over time.
The process of bone removal and replacement is called bone remodeling. This process relies on a healthy balance between two actions: resorption and formation. Our bodies remove damaged bone through resorption, and fills in the remaining cavities through formation. In healthy bone, these two processes offset eachother perfectly.
Unfortunately, this balance can be upset by many factors, including inactivity, medications, illness, and other common conditions. Coupled with our body’s natural withdrawal of bone to supplement its need for calcium, and our bones can quickly become fragile.
When more bone is lost than formed, the result is osteoporosis. Often called the silent disease, many people may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden bump or fall causes a fracture. And that can be a big problem, since is affects over 54 million women and men in the United States.
The best way to prevent these fractures from occurring is knowing that you are at risk in the first place. To find out if you have osteoporosis, it is important to get a bone mineral density test with a DEXA machine. This machine is an enhanced form of x-ray technology, and is today’s established standard for measuring bone mineral density. By measuring the amount of bone in areas such as your hip and spine, the results of the DEXA scan can tell you if you have normal bone density, or if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, and can determine your risk for fractures.
So how do you know if you’re at risk and need a scan? People who should consider making an appointment fall into 3 categories:
1. All women 65 years and older, and all men 70 years and older
2. Women under the age of 65 with any of the following risk factors:
Low body mass (less than 127 pounds)
History of amenorrhea before the age of 42, or early menopause
3. Men and women of any age with any of the following risk factors:
Family history of osteoporosis
Vitamin D deficiency
Loss of height
Alcohol or cigarette use
Long term use of steroids
Eating disorder, malnutrition or recent unexplained weight loss
Broken bone from little or no trauma
Hyperthyroidism or hyperparathyroidism
While bone density testing can let you know if you are at risk for fractures, you don’t have to wait until a diagnosis to take action and help your body build better bones. Exercise and good nutrition are critical to the health of everybody, but become even more important for people with bone loss and fractures. Practicing healthy lifestyle habits like eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and moderating your alcohol intake are effective ways to manage osteoporosis, but they can also boost your overall health and well-being. Our providers, including our nutritionist in our Wellness Studio, can help counsel you about your lifestyle habits and help you make the best decisions for your bone health.
(learn some tips and tricks on healthy eating here)
While sticks and stones may break your bones, it takes even less than that for some people. If you suffer from osteoarthritis, or want to start working to prevent it, we’re here to help! We invite you to call us at 703.349.5100 to schedule an appointment with our nutritionist, or visit our orthopaedics center to schedule a DEXA scan. To stay up-to-date on the latest news and tips from us, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter by clicking below.