“Boney Express” – that was what one woman, a victim of osteoporosis, named her nationwide campaign to call attention to the fragility of our bones as we age. She felt strongly that preventative maintenance as early as age 25 was key; when bone mass density peaks.
In light of this, perhaps the title of this article should have been, “start maintaining healthy bones at age 25”. In fact, the dominant theme of the US Surgeon General’s report on osteoporosis is that you’re never too young or too old to develop awareness of bone health. For any age category, the US Surgeon General recommends a two-pronged approach to healthy bones: calcium intake and physical exercise. Being Active Leads to Strong Bones Not only do we need sufficient amounts of vitamin D – or calcium – but we need to engage in physical activity.
The saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” can very well apply to our bones and muscles. Weak bones lead to weak bodies, and that’s when fractures are likely to happen. Studies on osteoporosis reveal that there are three areas that are more prone to fractures: the spine, hips and wrist. When fractures do occur, these are grounds for serious concern. In fact, the National Institute of Health classifies osteoporosis as a “silent killers.” Tragically, an individual may have osteoporosis and may not know about it until a fracture occurs. The National Osteoporosis Foundation provides the following statistics on fractures per year in the US:
• 300,000 hip fractures
• 700,000 vertebral fractures
• 250,000 wrist fractures
• 300,000 fractures at other sites.
Dr. Nancy Lane, author of The Osteoporosis Book, notes that things are even more grim: 24% of elderly people who suffer a hip fracture die within the first year of that fracture, or can no longer live independently. What Can You Do? Instead of cowering in fear, the most effective way to maintain healthy bones after age 50 is to have regularly scheduled bone density tests. Accepted methods for testing include:
conventional X-rays – show where fractures occurred inside the body
single photon absorptiometry – measures bone mineral density with gamma rays
dual energy X-ray absorptiometry – measures the hip and lumbar spine
quantitative computed tomography – calculates a woman’s risk of a vertebral fracture
peripheral quantitative computed tomography – used to evaluate risk in the peripheral skeleton
ultrasound – measures the rate of sound waves traveling through the bones
Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages and your bone specialist can determine which test is more appropriate to your unique case. Remember: talk with your doctor, and discard the myth that bone health is something that only senior citizens should be concerned with. Start early, and take steps to avoid the silent killer of osteoporosis.