Today is World Osteoporosis Day, sponsored by the International Osteoporosis Foundation. This global event has been observed on October 20th since 1997.
Osteoporosis is the loss of bone strength over time. The process is usually gradual. Eventually the condition may become so severe that the stress on bones of normal activities such as sitting, standing, or coughing can cause a fracture. Often, a person’s first sign of osteoporosis is a broken bone. Other signs of advancing osteoporosis can be a loss of height or a dowager’s hump (rounded spine between the shoulders). The risk of osteoporosis increases with age.
We usually associate osteoporosis with women, particularly post-menopausal women. In fact, women over age 50 are the group at highest risk of developing osteoporosis. However, men also develop the condition. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects one in five men over age 50; men are more likely to have a bone fracture related to osteoporosis than they are to develop prostate cancer. Although men do not experience the same rapid bone loss that women do after menopause, by age 70 both men and women lose bone mass at about the same rate.
Bones are made of living tissue and require the right nutrients to stay strong and healthy. One key to preventing osteoporosis is to eat a healthy diet. On the International Osteoporosis Foundation web site you can download a patient brochure that outlines the proper diet for building and maintaining bone strength throughout life. You can also learn which nutrients and macronutrients support bone health.
A second key to maintaining strong bones is regular exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, the kind that make your muscles work against gravity, are best for maintaining strong bones when done three to four times a week. In addition, strength and balance exercises strengthen muscles and may help prevent falls that can lead to bone fractures.
Every year World Osteoporosis Day reminds us to do all we can to build and maintain strong bones. Eating right and exercising regularly are important steps. Your doctor can order a bone density test to determine if you are developing osteoporosis and prescribe medication to help maintain bone health.