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May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month
Osteoporosis, which literally means porous bone, is a disease in which the density and quality of bone are reduced. As bones become more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. The loss of bone occurs silently and progressively. Often there are no symptoms until the first fracture occurs.
Our bones are living tissue and constantly changing. From the moment of birth until young adulthood, bones are developing and strengthening. Our bones are at their most dense in our early 20s– called peak bone mass. As we age some of our bone cells begin to dissolve bone matrix (resorption), while new bone cells deposit osteoid (formation). This process is known as remodeling. For people with osteoporosis, bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone. Bones become porous, brittle and prone to fracture.
Around the world, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men are at risk of an osteoporotic fracture. In fact, an osteoporotic fracture is estimated to occur every 3 seconds. The most common fractures associated with osteoporosis occur at the hip, spine and wrist. The likelihood of these fractures occurring, particularly at the hip and spine, increases with age in both women and men.
Of particular concern are vertebral (spinal) and hip fractures. Vertebral fractures can result in serious consequences, including loss of height, intense back pain and deformity (sometimes called Dowager's Hump). A hip fracture often requires surgery and may result in loss of independence or death.
The good news is there are many steps that can be taken to prevent and diagnose osteoporosis. It's now a largely treatable condition and, with a combination of lifestyle changes and appropriate medical treatment, many fractures can be avoided.
In order to lower your risk of getting osteoporosis be sure and follow these steps for building strong healthy bones:
*Get 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day for calcium, vitamin D and protein, all important for healthy bones. Good ways to get dairy: smoothies, caffeine-free lattes, flavored milks, string cheese.
*Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those high in vitamin C like oranges, strawberries, broccoli and red peppers. Vitamin C helps collagen production, which provides the structure for bones.
*Supplement your diet. In addition to your basic multivitamin take a separate bone supplement that contains calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and vitamin K, all critical for bone health. Take it separately from your multivitamin for better absorption.
*Include nondairy calcium sources: dark-green vegetables (spinach, bok choy, collard greens, kale), beans and soy. They also have other bone-essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, B vitamins and magnesium,
*Get enough healthy protein. Higher protein is associated with less bone loss. There is evidence that soy protein and walnuts may be particularly bone-sustaining choices. Also include fish at least twice a week.
*Limit your intake of soda, coffee and alcohol. A little is OK, but they are all associated weaker bones when consumed in excess.
*Exercise. Life has many demands and activity often falls by the wayside. Weight-bearing exercise like walking is key for bone maintenance.
*Avoid foods high in sodium. Sodium can trigger calcium excretion. Aim for no more than 2300 mg a day. Eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods, and choose low-sodium varieties of canned and frozen foods.
Here is a list of healthy foods that contain higher levels of calcium. Try adding these to your diet on a daily basis:
Sardines and Salmon
Cheddar Cheese (low fat)
Leafy Green Vegetables
Figs, papaya, raisins