Haims: Bone density is different for men and women (column)
Osteoporosis means “porous bone.” When our bones are viewed under a microscope, healthy bones appear to look honeycomb. However, bones that are osteoporotic, have often 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 humerus. 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 three seconds.
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.
- 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
There is no cure for osteoporosis, nor is there a way to completely prevent it. However, there are ways to help avert it and 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, exposure to sunlight, 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 mg of calcium a day. However, men often do not need this amount until they near 70.
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.
As we age, keeping mobile, eating right, and incorporating balance exercises such as tai chi may help in lowering the risk of falling.
When ordered by a medical provider, Medicare Part B covers a bone density test once every 24 months. Take advantage of this opportunity to get screened.”
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-376-1447