Why are strong bones so important? To answer this we must first look at the basics of how our bones form, doing this you will see that they are living tissue. They need to be cared for just as you would care for the rest of your body.
Let’s take a deeper look. Our bones are constantly being renewed in a two-step process (resorption and formation) that occurs throughout our life. During resorption, the old bone is broken down and removed by osteoclasts (a cell in our body). The formation stage is when osteoblasts (another cell) build new bone to replace the old that was removed in the first stage. In our childhood and early adult years, more bone is produced than removed. This causes the bone to reach maximum mass and strength by the time we are in our mid-30s. After that, the old bone is removed at a faster pace than what the new bone is reformed, so we begin to lose bone mass and the skeleton begins to slowly decline. This is why some people notice they are getting shorter.
Several reasons exist for why bone loss leads to this disease. What is osteoporosis? This is a disease that thins and weakens the bones to the point that they become brittle and break easier. This affects hip, wrist, and backbones (spine) more than other areas. Being called the “silent disease”, you may not notice any symptoms or changes until you have a break. However, you may have been losing bone strength for many years.
Osteoporosis in incredibly common. A woman’s risk goes up with age, especially after menopause. During this time, drops in estrogen may result in a 20% loss of bone mass. For a woman over 50, the risk of suffering an osteoporosis-related break is roughly 50%. And if you are thinking that a broken bone is not a big deal, you are wrong. The complications that can occur from broken bones range from infection all the way to death.
Look at the Facts
Who is at risk?
- Females are at a higher risk than males
- Smaller framed people (under 127lbs)
- Those with a family history of osteoporosis disease
- Women who are post-menopausal
- Caucasian and Asian decent puts you at a greater risk, although Latin and African-American can develop the disease
- Having a history of abnormal menstrual periods or an eating disorder; eating disorders can cause irregular menstruation and over-exercises can cause bone loss as well
- Men with low testosterone levels
- Those with a low calcium intake in their diet
- Inactive people
- Smokers and heavy drinkers
So how do you find out if you are at risk or have the disease already? There are tests that your doctor can perform to find the strength of your bones.
What to do Now
Please don’t think that exercise may burden your already weakening bones. In fact, the opposite is true. Being more active helps your bones by slowing loss, improving muscle strength (to take some of the burdens), and improves balance (less likely to fall and suffer a break).
Supplement your diet
Calcium and vitamin D are a given when it comes to bone health (ask any doctor). New research suggests that magnesium and phosphorous may also have a big part to play in building healthy bones. You can find these in whole grains and vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and lima beans. A daily multivitamin may help here too (always check with your doctor).