What everyone should know about Osteoporosis
by Dr. Jason Creel
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GWINNETT - Greetings!! Have you taken a “small step” toward exercise yet? As discussed last week, take a slow and easy approach to making healthy lifestyle changes. Rarely does anything worthwhile come quickly. Exercise is very important and very effective in maintaining good health while preventing disease. Osteoporosis, the topic of this article, can also be improved if not prevented with exercise and a healthy lifestyle.
What is Osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is a condition in which the density and quality of bone are decreased. Over time this can significantly weaken the skeletal system leading to an increased risk for fractures, especially of the spine, wrist, hip and pelvis. Any fracture is a problem, however fractures of the spine and hip are extremely debilitating and may ultimately lead to death
Like many medical problems, prevention is most effective when healthy lifestyle changes are made early. In fact, the best defense is to establish strong healthy bones before the age of 30. This is the general age in which a person starts to slowly lose bone density. Therefore, it is essential to gain as much bone mass as one can prior to this occurrence.
There are several things that one can do to help increase or stabilize bone density. For example, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is essential. Calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones as well as other important systems like heart and nerve function. However, the body cannot absorb calcium without the help of vitamin D. Vitamin D can be obtained by exposure to sunlight or through diet. However the average diet often has insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, thus requiring supplementation. Depending on your age and bone health, you need somewhere between 1000mg to 1500mg of calcium and 400 IU to 800 IU of vitamin D daily.
As previously mentioned, exercise also plays an important role in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. It has been shown that individuals with regular exercise in childhood and adolescence are much more likely to reach peak bone density by age 30. Regardless of age, weight-bearing exercise (i.e. walking, jogging, dancing, stair-climbing…) will improve bone health. If you have medical problems such as osteoporosis, be sure to have your physician approve an exercise program for you. Remember, it is rarely too late for anyone to implement exercise to improve or prevent osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, osteoporosis often goes undetected until a serious bone fracture occurs. Therefore it is important to know your risks for bone disease and receive diagnostic tests appropriately. Your doctor can help you understand your individual risk for osteoporosis. Some general risks include advancing age, female gender (although this is not an exclusive female disease), alcohol abuse, early menopause, previous fractures, family history of osteoporosis, cigarette smoking, long term steroid use, low calcium diet, low body weight, inactivity and certain chronic health problems (I.e. Hyperthyroidism). If you have any of these risks talk to your physician about the possible need for a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test. Most of these tests are quick, painless and noninvasive (usually x-ray or CT scan), measuring the amount of calcium in the spinal column, wrist, arm or leg.
Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, the FDA has approved certain medications for prevention and treatment, including bisphosphonates (alendronate and risedronate), calcitonin, estrogens, parathyroid hormone and roloxifene. If you have osteoporosis or early bone density loss, talk to your doctor about which medication might help you. But remember, a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, is essential to maintaining healthy bones. If you have any questions about osteoporosis, please email me at Doctorjason@charter.net.
Next week I will discuss stomach pain.
Until then, your prescription for the week: Check your diet to make sure your getting enough calcium and vitamin D. If not, swing by the pharmacy and pick up a daily supplement.