BONES are living, growing tissue that are constantly breaking down and building up. But as you get older, your bones may be at an increased risk for osteoporosis since they become weak, fragile and more likely to break. And once they break, the healing process can be both painful, expensive and takes longer to heal.
Bones may feel solid, but their interiors are actually filled with holes like a honeycomb whose tissues break down and rebuild all the time. While some cells build new bone tissue, others dissolve bone and release the minerals inside. As we get older, we begin to lose more bone than we build.
The tiny holes within bones get bigger, and the solid outer layer becomes thinner. In other words, our bones get less dense. If this loss of bone density goes too far, it’s called osteoporosis.
It’s normal for bones to break in bad accidents. But if your bones are dense enough, they should be able to stand up to most falls. Bones weakened by osteoporosis, though, are more likely to break.
A large part of osteoporosis and fracture risk is inherited so if close relatives have suffered a fracture in their later years, this may be a clue to think carefully about your own risk.
The early stages of osteoporosis don’t cause any symptoms or warning signs. In most cases, people with osteoporosis don’t know they have the condition until they have a fracture.
If symptoms do appear, some of the earlier ones may include receding gums, weakened grip strength, weak and brittle nails.
Without appropriate treatment, osteoporosis can worsen. As bones get thinner and weaker, the risk of fracture increases. Symptoms of severe osteoporosis can include a fracture from a fall or even from a strong sneeze or cough. They can also include back or neck pain, or loss of height. These last two symptoms can be caused by a compression fracture. This is a break in one of the vertebrae in your neck or back, which is so weak that it breaks under the normal pressure in your spine.
Older women are at an increased risk of having osteoporosis since estrogen that helps to make and rebuild bones drops after menopause. Low body weight can also increase your risk as well as certain medications such as steroids and certain diseases and conditions such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, thyroid disease and depression.
Lifestyle factors that increase your risk of osteoporosis include breathing in pollution from particles released by automobiles, tobacco and the mining industry.
Too much wine also increases cortical levels, which can lead to lower bone mineral density. Women are particularly at risk as alcohol can cause a decrease in estrogen levels, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Another factor includes losing too much weight since a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 increases your risk of osteoporosis as well as shunning out sunlight, consuming too much salt and lack of exercise.
A good start to lower your risk of osteoporosis is by getting plenty of calcium, vitamin D and exercise. Calcium is a mineral that helps bones stay strong. It can come from the foods you eat, including milk and milk products, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens or from dietary supplements. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. As you grow older, your body needs more vitamin D, which is made by your skin when you are in the sun.
You can also get vitamin D from dietary supplements and from certain foods, such as milk, eggs, fatty fish and fortified cereals. Talk with your health care provider to make sure you are getting a healthy amount of vitamin D. Problems can arise if you’re getting too little or too much.
Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, helps bones, too. Physical activity is also important for building the bone structure. The more work bones do, the stronger they get.
That’s why it’s so important for kids to run and play. There is good evidence that you can build the best skeleton by doing physical activity in childhood like jumping rope, playing basketball and running around.
The trend now of not having physical education in school and playing computer games instead of tag may be a serious threat to bone health. Building bone as a young adult can have benefits that last a lifetime, and research has also confirms that physical activity as we get older can help us maintain bone strength.
Bones respond to physical activity by becoming heavier, bigger, and stronger. It does this best when we are young. Bone mass usually peaks when we are in our 20s so exercise during youth adds extra layers to the outer surface of a bone to essentially make the bone bigger.
Another important way to avoid broken bones is to prevent falling. Many things can affect the risk for a fall, such as how good a person’s balance is and how many trip hazards are in the environment.
The good news is, even if you already have osteoporosis, it’s not too late to start taking care of your bones. Since your bones are rebuilding themselves all the time, you can help push the balance toward more bone growth by giving them exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.
Your bones are so important since they support you and allow you to move. They also protect your heart, lungs and brain from injury. Bones are the storehouse for vital minerals you need to live.
Learn to take care of them and no matter what your age is, it’s never too late to promote bone health. Increase your load-bearing exercise, like walking, and make good food choices, rich in calcium and vitamin D. Healthy bones leads to a health life!