Feature Articles: Health
Boning up on osteoporosis
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, nutrition and health education specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Osteoporosis is a condition of gradually weakening, brittle bones. As bones lose calcium, they become more fragile and porous. Osteoporosis progresses slowly and silently. Most people don’t even realize they have it until they fracture a bone.
Osteoporosis is more common than people realize. About half of women and 13 percent of men over the age of 50 will have a fracture related to osteoporosis in their lifetime. Osteoporosis affects approximately 25 million people and causes more than 1.5 million fractures every year according to the American Dietetic Association's Calcium in Your Life book.
Some of the factors that put us at risk for osteoporosis are
out of our control. These include gender, low body weight, race,
age, family history and prolonged use of some medications. Women
are four times more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. Most
women have less bone mass to start with and then they lose it faster
as they get older. The hormone estrogen helps deposit calcium in
bones but as estrogen production decreases, bone loss increases.
People who are underweight likely have less bone mass than a person
at a healthy weight. People of African descent have denser bones
than do those of Northern European descent. Some of the medications
linked to increased risk for osteoporosis include ongoing use of
steroids, thyroid medication, and cortisone-like medications. Smoking
and heavy alcohol drinking are risk factors for osteoporosis. Smoking
promotes bone loss. Heavy drinking has been linked to weaker bones
possibly because heavy drinkers often make poor food choices.
Often, there are no symptoms of osteoporosis until the first
bone break occurs. Other possible symptoms include bone pain, brittle
fingernails, dental problems such as heavy plaque, gum disease or
loose teeth, and Dowager’s Hump. Dowager’s Hump is an outward curve
of the vertebrae of the upper back. It is caused by compression
of the front portion of the vertebrae that leads to bending of the
spine which creates a hump on the upper back.
Regardless of your age, gender or body build, you can practice
healthy habits to lessen your risk for osteoporosis. One thing that
contributes to overall health as well as bone health is physical
activity. Weight bearing activities such as walking and strength
training trigger your body to deposit calcium in your bones which
will make them more dense and stronger.
Calcium intake is important for bone health. Even a mild deficiency
over time can affect bone density, increasing the risk for osteoporosis.
Adults thru age 50 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. After
age 50, 1,200 milligrams per day is recommended to maintain bone
mass. Eight ounces of milk or yogurt or 1½ ounces of cheese provides
approximately 300 milligrams of calcium.
People who have lactose intolerance can have a difficult time
getting enough calcium in their diet. There are lactose-free milk
products available that offer the same amount of calcium as regular
milk. Other foods that are a good source of calcium include: one
cup of white rice (267 mg), one cup cooked navy beans (258 mg),
one cup of cole slaw (195 mg). Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, sunflower
seeds, English walnuts, roasted soybeans, and peanuts all have around
400 mg of calcium per ½ cup.
Many people take calcium supplements. So, here is the short course
on calcium supplements: Calcium phosphate, citrate or gluconate
are better absorbed than calcium carbonate or oyster shell calcium.
Taking any calcium supplement with food makes the calcium more available
for use in the body. Calcium supplements are best absorbed in doses
of 500 milligrams or less. Space doses throughout the day and take
them with food.
If you suspect you have osteoporosis, talk to your doctor. Osteoporosis
is diagnosed through blood and urine tests and x-ray
type pictures that show your bone density.
Eating an overall healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise are good ways to prevent the development of osteoporosis. Enjoy that ice cold glass of milk or a creamy yogurt parfait after your morning walk. You are contributing to your bone health!
Last update: Thursday, May 13, 2010