Vail Daily column: Bone density is different for men and women

Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” When bones are viewed under a microscope, healthy bones appear to look quite similar to a honeycomb. However, bones that are osteoporotic have often experienced a loss in mass and density. They appear to have larger spaces in the honeycomb. Consequently, bone fractures often result from falls and such innocuous actions as bending over or coughing can cause devastating consequences.

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.”

Worldwide, osteoporosis is responsible for about 8.9 million bone fractures annually. 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.

Risk factors

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

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• 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 five men aged over 50 will experience an osteoporotic fracture.

• Age: The older you get, the greater your risk.

• 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.

• Body frame size: Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass as they age.

Keeping bones strong

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

One of the easiest ways you can help lessen the chance of getting osteoporosis is to integrate calcium and vitamin D into your diet.

For people between the ages of 18 and 50, it is recommended that 1,000 milligrams of calcium be consumed daily. As people age, there becomes a disparity between the needed amount of calcium for men and women. As women near 50 years of age, it is recommended that they ingest about 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day. However, men often do not need this amount until they near 70 years of age.

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 with bones

• 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 may be recommended. Some drugs have proved to aid in slowing bone loss, and others have shown to help rebuild bone. You should do your own research and consult your doctor when considering to an approach that may be best for you.

As we age, keeping mobile, eating right and incorporating balance exercises such as tai chi may help in lowering the risk of falling.

For those with a family history raising osteoporosis concerns, a bone density test may be something to consider. The test most commonly used to test bone density is called a central DXA test. The test is very much like that of having an X-ray. It is not intrusive and it is painless.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to and call 970-328-5526.

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