Are your bones silently deteriorating?

Are your bones silently deteriorating?

It’s often referred to as a silent disease, but it affects over 200 million people worldwide: osteoporosis.

“Osteoporosis, meaning ‘porous bone,’ is a disease of the bone. The inside core structure of the bone weakens, increasing the risk of fracture,” explains Dr. Vallikantha Nellaiappan, an endocrinologist at Aurora Health Care. “Osteoporotic bone has lost density and has an abnormal structure, which increases the risk of fracture with falls or minimal trauma.”

Women are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis, according to the National Institute of Health. “Women tend to have thinner bones than men. Estrogen, which protects the bone, also declines significantly when women reach menopause, increasing the risk for bone loss and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women,” Dr. Nellaiappan says.

Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:
  • Age
  • Caucasian or Asian descent
  • Thin and small body frame
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Personal history of fracture as an adult
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Lack of exercise
  • Low dietary calcium intake

“Certain chronic health conditions can increase your risk, such as rheumatoid arthritis, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, breast or prostate cancer, as well as chronic use of medications, such as steroids, cancer chemotherapy, proton pump inhibitors or anti-seizure medications,” Dr. Nellaiappan adds.

To protect your bone health, she recommends:
  • Eating foods with a lot of calcium, such as milk, yogurt and green leafy vegetables.
  • Eating foods with a lot of vitamin D, such as milk with added vitamin D and ocean fish.
  • Taking calcium and vitamin D supplements if diet alone is insufficient.
  • Being physically active. Try weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  • Avoiding or stopping smoking.
  • Limiting alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks a day at most.

“It is recommended to do a DEXA bone density scan for women 65 and older, as well as men over 70,” Dr. Nellaiappan says. “But it should be done sooner if you are at a higher risk or have had prior fractures.”

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Sammy Kalski