Bone Health & Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis occurs when bone density decreases, resulting in more porous bone than would otherwise be the case, which means that the bones are more fragile and more easily broken. This may be the result of too much bone loss, not enough bone being created or a combination of the two factors. Osteopenia results when the body’s bones are weaker than normal but not so much so that breaking is a serious concern.
Several causes exist for declining bone health. Here are several factors that tend to increase the odds:
- Family history
- Being female
- Being Caucasian or Asian
- Having a small body frame
- Excess cigarette smoking or alcohol, caffeine, protein or sodium intake
- Poor nutritional intake, especially so if it includes low calcium levels
- Not exercising on a regular basis
- Low testosterone levels (men) or lower estrogen levels (women)
Of course, you have no control over some of these factors such as your gender and race. However, many of the other ones you do such as what you put into your body and how much exercise you get. Do note that these factors are important in both your younger years and your later ones although post-menopausal women should be especially vigilant about bone care.
Calcium intake is especially important, and rest assured that you can take in a good amount of this mineral through a variety of sources, not just dairy milk as is commonly advertised. Some of the best sources include sesame seeds and other nuts, green leafy vegetables and fortified nut and soy milks. Note that it’s better to get calcium from food sources than pills whenever possible and that vitamin D intake is quite important too as it helps your body absorb calcium.
Early Warning Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately, it is not always apparent that you’re suffering from orthopedic health issues until you break a bone as a result. In fact, in a study of nearly 50,000 who had osteoporosis and a fracture, only 19 percent of them knew of the poor condition of their bones at the time of the fracture.
For that reason, it’s important to periodically get bone density scans taken, and always ensure that your nutrition and activity levels are high. At a minimum and if you have no other major risk factors, you should make sure that you are screened by the time you turn 70 if you’re a man, 65 if you’re a woman or immediately if you have suffered a fracture after your 50th birthday.
However, some warning signs do exist for those on the lookout for them and who know to connect them with the possibility of osteoporosis. These can include:
- Losing height and slouching. This is the result of bones in the spine losing mass and not being able to support nearly as well as they used to. If you notice this, immediately get it addressed so that you can stop or even reverse the process.
- Gum lines that start receding. This results from your jaw losing mass. It’s important to note that this type of bone loss is often directly related to spine bone loss.
- Joint pain or cramps while at rest. This is because these symptoms are often the result of low calcium intake or general low nutritional levels.
- Brittle fingernails. Also noteworthy is that a strong sign of improved overall orthopedic health are fingernails that start appearing healthier and growing stronger than had previously been the case.
As you might expect, many of the treatment methods are identical to the prevention ones noted above. If you smoke, stop. If you drink to excess, stop. If you do not exercise, start. If you do not engage in good nutritional habits or do not consume as much calcium as you should, start. Fortunately, all of the things that you can do to help prevent and manage this are great for your overall health too, not just your orthopedic health. And, despite your younger years being quite important to your bone health in later ones, there remains quite a lot of good that you can do for the health of your bones at any age.
Exercise options that help include walking, running and bicycling. However, swimming, while an excellent exercise outlet and awesome for joints and cardiovascular health, is not much of a help as far as this goes since there is no weight-bearing aspect to it. Aim to do some type of weight-bearing exercise for at least half an hour five days a week although even three times a week would help a lot and be much better than none. Other exercise routines such as yoga, Pilates, tai chi and those directed at your lower back or abdomen really help as well. Those can also help you gain a sense of balance, which will decrease the chances of you falling and putting your bones in danger.
Regardless of your history, any contributing factors that you may or may not have any control over and how weak your bones may be, rest assured that you and your doctor can still do quite a bit of good as far as controlling and even partially reversing any declining bone health that you may be experiencing. Conversely, if you are younger, now is the time to ensure that your bones will be stronger in your later years by following the suggestions mentioned above.