May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by low bone density. Every year, more Americans are diagnosed with osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to weaken and become more likely to break. Approximately half of all women and a quarter of all men over the age of 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. Additionally, each year about one-third of adults in the U.S. age 65 and older will fall. Many of these falls will result in broken bones.
You may not know that you have this " silent" disease until your bones are so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes your wrist to break or your hip to fracture. There typically are no symptoms in the early stages of bone loss. But once your bones have been weakened by osteoporosis, you might have signs and symptoms that include:
- Back pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
- Loss of height over time
- A stooped posture
- A bone that breaks much more easily than expected
Many people believe:
- Osteoporosis is a natural part of aging that only affects older women
- Bone loss can't be treated once it starts
- The only risk of osteoporosis is broken bones from falls
None of these myths are true. What's true is:
- While 1 in 2 women over 50 will develop osteoporosis, 1 in 4 men will, too
- It's possible to make bones stronger
- Around 25 % of people die within the first 6 to 12 months after a hip fracture
Many individuals do not realize that developing osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging. It is critical to understand that strong, dense bones are built early in life. In fact, peak bone mass is achieved between the ages of 25-30. Understanding this is vital to preventing fractures as we age. Bone mass, density and strength are impacted tremendously by lifestyle factors, including a healthy diet and exercise. As debilitating as the consequences of osteoporosis can be, they can be prevented and osteoporosis is treatable.
Preventative measures which promote healthy bones include sufficient calcium intake, achieving adequate levels of vitamin D, and performing bone healthy exercises. Risk factors to be avoided are smoking, long term use of certain medications such as steroids and excessive alcohol intake (more than 2 glasses per day).
Osteoporosis is a preventable and treatable disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can reduce or prevent fractures. A bone mass measurement (DEXA) can aid in the early detection of osteoporosis before fractures happen, provide a precursor to future fractures, and determine the rate of bone loss. Treatment includes medications, healthy diet, and weight-bearing exercise to help prevent bone loss or strengthen already weak bones.
You can l earn more about what puts you at risk for osteoporosis and how to prevent and treat it at the National Osteoporosis Foundation .
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