Haims: Bone density is different for men and women

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” When our bones are viewed under a microscope, healthy bones appear to look like honeycomb. However, bones that are osteoporotic, have experienced a loss in mass and density. When osteoporotic bones are viewed under a microscope, they appear to have larger spaces in the honeycomb and therefore are not as strong. Consequently, bone fractures often result from falls and such innocuous actions as bending over or coughing can cause devastating consequences.

Osteoporosis is common

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, “About 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. Studies suggest that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.”

The most common fractures occur in forearms and the humorous.  These fractures are most often incurred as people place their arms out to brace for a fall. The next most common fracture occurs in the hip — often the result of a fall. It is estimated that osteoporotic fractures occur every 3 seconds.

Risk factors

While we cannot control all the risk factors associated with osteoporosis, whether or not you will develop osteoporosis may play a part in your diet, exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol and the medications you use.

  • Sex. Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than are men. One in three women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures. Comparably, one in four men aged over 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture.
  • Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an underactive thyroid.
  • Family history. Having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis puts you at greater risk, especially if your mother or father experienced a hip fracture.
  • Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

Keeping bones strong

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There is no cure for osteoporosis nor is there a way to completely prevent it. However, there are ways to help advert it and there are steps you take to reduce your risk.

One of the leading U.S. research institutions dedicated to the study of skeletal health is, Johns Hopkins. Researchers there believe that one of the most natural ways people can help lessen the chance of getting osteoporosis is to do daily weight-bearing exercise. Dr. Deborah Sellmeyer, medical director of Johns Hopkins Metabolic Bone Center, states, “You don’t have to pay for a gym membership; just get outside and walk. Start with 15 to 20 minutes a day. If you’re frail, start by working with a physical therapist who can help you move properly to get results and stay injury-free.”

Integrating calcium, exposure to sunlight, and vitamin D into your diet can also be quite helpful. Research from Johns Hopkins suggests calcium intake of, “1,000 milligrams daily for women age 50 and younger and for men 70 and younger.” For women over age 50 and men over 70, they suggest 1,200 milligrams daily.

Given not everyone consumes adequate calcium and vitamin D in their diet, The Mayo Clinic suggests that the following are good sources of calcium:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Canned salmon or sardines
  • Soy products, such as tofu
  • Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice

When diet and the use of supplements do not provide the body with enough assistance to maintain strong bones, drug therapy is often recommended.   Some drugs have proved to aid in slowing bone loss, and others have shown to help rebuild bone. Nonetheless, many of these drugs have quite a bit of controversy surrounding them. You should do your own research and consult your doctor(s) when considering an approach that may be best for you.

Be proactive and take a few simple steps to prevent and/or slow bone loss.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is and 970-328-5526.

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