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Healthy Living

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis

Known as "the silent thief" because bone loss happens without any symptoms. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. This leads to increased bone fragility and risk of fracture, particularly of the hip, spine and wrist.

Although osteoporosis can be caused by a number of factors, hormone deficiencies are the leading cause. Women over the age of 60 are more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. About 23% of American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. Between 40-56% of women over 50 have osteopenia which can eventually become osteoporosis if not properly treated.

Even though Osteoporosis can strike anyone at any age and can be caused by a number of factors, hormone deficiencies are the leading cause both in men and in women. In women, hormone deficiencies occur around the time of menopause. When the ovaries cease to function and reduction in estrogen production occurs. One in four women over the age of 50 has osteoporosis while one in eight men over 50 also has the disease.

The reduced quality of life for those with Osteoporosis can be substantial. Osteoporosis can result in disfigurement, lowered self-esteem, reduction or loss of mobility, and decreased independence.

How serious can Osteoporosis be? More women die each year as a result of osteoporotic fractures than from breast and ovarian cancer combined.

The most common risk factors are:

  • female
  • age 50 or older
  • past menopause
  • prolonged sex hormone deficiencies
  • ovaries removed or menopause before age 45
  • not enough calcium in your diet
  • limited exposure to sunlight or insufficient Vitamin D in your diet
  • not enough physical activity
  • family history of Osteoporosis
  • thin, "small-boned"
  • white or Eurasian ancestry
  • smoker
  • caffeine (consistently more than three cups a day of coffee, tea, cola)
  • alcohol (consistently more than two drinks a day)
  • excess use of certain medications (cortisone, prednisone, anti-convulsants, thyroid hormone, aluminum containing antacids)

Obviously, the more risk factors you have the greater your risk of developing Osteoporosis. If you have four or more of these common risk factors, we suggest that you discuss being tested for bone loss with your physician

Preventing Osteoporosis

Calcium is needed in order to maintain life. Almost every cell in our body relies on calcium to function properly. This even includes the cells in the heart, nerves and muscles. Our bones require calcium to remain strong. In the body, calcium is found in three places:

  • in the skeleton (about 99% bones are often referred to as a "reservoir" of calcium);
  • in the cells; and
  • in the blood. It is the blood flowing through bodies that carries calcium to the organs and cells where it is needed.

So, how much calcium do we need?

The following chart gives a good standard to follow.

Age

Intake

7 to 9

700 mg

10 to 12 (boys)

900 mg

10 to 12 (girls)

1200 to 1400 mg

13 to 16

1200 to 1400 mg

17 to 18

1200 mg

19 to 49

1000 mg

50+

1000 to 1500 mg

Consume Vitamin D for Calcium Absorption

Vitamin D is very important to calcium absorption. It can increase calcium absorption by as much as 30% to 80%.

One of the easiest and most natural ways to get Vitamin D is from sunlight. It causes the body to manufacture its own Vitamin D. If you spend only about 15 minutes a day in the summer sun, you will  greatly enhance Vitamin D production.

If you are unable to get into the sun much, then you need to make up for a lack of sunlight exposure. It is difficult to get Vitamin D from food alone and you probably need to consider Vitamin D supplementation.

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