One in three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will one in five men. Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually—that’s one osteoporotic fracture every three seconds.
These statistics from the International Osteoporosis Foundation are staggering. But is there anything you can do to prevent osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures and breaks. Even a mild stress, like coughing, could cause a bone to break. Most osteoporotic fractures occur in the hip, wrist or spine.
Human bones are constantly being broken down and replaced. Young bodies make new bones faster than old bones break down. When osteoporosis is present in older bodies, regeneration of bones cannot keep up with the breakdown of old bone.
White and Asian post-menopausal women are most at risk for osteoporosis, although the disease can affect men and women of all races. Family history; body frame size; lifestyle choices, such as lack of physical exercise, alcohol consumption, tobacco use and poor diet; medical conditions and treatments may also increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
The likelihood that you will develop osteoporosis partially depends on how much you have in your “bank” of bone mass. During youth, bone mass accumulates, and the more bone that accumulates, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis with age.
There are no recognizable signs of the early stages of osteoporosis, but as the disease progress, noticeable symptoms may include back pain, shrinking or loss of height, stooped posture or a bone fracture or break.
By keeping your bones healthy throughout your life, you may be able to reduce your risk of or prevent the onset of osteoporosis with age. To stay strong and healthy, your bones need adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D and regular exercise.
Prevention of osteoporosis begins in youth, as bones grow and develop. They reach their maximum strength and size (peak bone mass) around the mid-20s. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, it is estimated that a 10 percent increase in peak bone mass in children reduces the risk of an osteoporotic fracture as an adult by as much as 50 percent.
Children and adolescents should:
- Eat a nutritious diet rich in calcium. (For calcium intake recommendations, click here.)
- Avoid malnutrition and under-nutrition.
- Maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D. (For recommended vitamin D intake, click here.)
- Get at least 40 minutes of physical activity every day.
- Avoid secondhand smoke.
In addition to these recommendations for children, to prevent osteoporosis, adults should:
- Avoid severe weight loss diets and eating disorders.
- Participate in regular weight-bearing activity. (For exercise recommendations, click here.)
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
- Avoid heavy drinking.
While you may already be past the point of peak bone mass, it’s never too late to make changes in your diet and lifestyle to encourage strong, healthy bones. Don’t let osteoporosis steal your zest for life. Start taking care of your bones now.