Bone Up! Treating and Preventing Osteoporosis

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Any age is the right age to put osteoporosis on your health radar and start strengthening your bones.

We worry about our heart health. We’re mindful of what we put in our bodies. We exercise our muscles and safeguard against breast cancer with self-checks. But how much thought do we give to our bone health?

Bone is living tissue. It’s constantly being rebuilt and absorbed by the body. And as we age we lose more bone than we replace, which results in weakened bones and can lead to osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease of the bone that occurs when you lose bone density and mass or simply do not make enough bone. Your bones become weak as a result and susceptible to breaks, fractures and falls. In extreme cases, simply coughing or bumping into a piece of furniture could cause a fracture.

If you look at healthy bone tissue under a microscope, parts of the bone have a honeycomb-like appearance. As bone tissue loses density and osteoporosis sets in, the holes and spaces become wider and larger, causing the bone to become weaker and more likely to break.

Who is at Risk?

About 52 million Americans have low bone mass, increasing their risk for osteoporosis. It affects women and men of all ages, but especially white and Asian women post-menopause. In fact, post-menopausal women can lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass annually, and up to 20 percent within five to seven years after menopause.

Breaking a bone is often the first sign that you have osteoporosis, or you may notice that your height is lowering or your upper back is curving forward. If you are experiencing these symptoms, consult your doctor immediately.

Treating Osteoporosis

The good news is that no matter your age, you can establish habits to improve the health of your bones, including getting enough calcium and vitamin D, avoiding smoking and limiting alcohol consumption, and engaging in weight-bearing exercise at least three times a week.

The latter — weight-bearing exercise, or strength training — is key. Because bones are living tissue, they become stronger when impact or extra strain is placed on them, just like muscles.

A 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University  demonstrated a 1 percent gain in hip and spine bone density, a 75 percent increase in strength and a 13 percent increase in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training.

The good news is you can benefit from strength training at any age, and there are many options to help you reap the benefits:

  • Lifting weights
  • Using elastic exercise bands
  • Weight machines
  • Lifting your own bodyweight 
  • Functional movements, such as standing and rising up on your toes

Osteoporosis is not inevitable. Take care of your bones — at any age — and they’ll take care of you.

Renown Health offers an ongoing series of orthopedic wellness classes, including classes on osteoporosis, joint replacement. Learn more online.

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