Osteoporosis is Latin for “porous bone.” It is a silent condition with no outward symptoms. The bones become weakened and brittle, and can break easily; a fractured rib may result from a simple cough. In older adults, osteoporosis can sometimes be an indirect cause of death, but more often it results in decreased quality of life.
Bone is living, growing tissue. Throughout our lives, our bodies are continually breaking down old bone and rebuilding new bone. Known as bone remodeling, this two-part process consists of resorption and ossification. During resorption, old bone tissue is broken down and removed by special cells called osteoclasts. During ossification new bone tissue is laid down to replace the old. Osteoblasts are the cells that promote bone formation.
When we’re young, we gain more bone than we lose. Bones then progressively increase in density until a maximum level is reached, usually around age 30. But after about age 35, things change, and we start to lose more bone than we make. Over time, this causes bone density to slowly decrease, and bones become more brittle. In a lifetime, a woman may lose up to 38 percent of peak bone mass, whereas a man may lose only 23 percent.
The Bone Bank Account
Think of bone as a bank account where you “deposit” and “withdraw” bone tissue. In order to be able to make “deposits” of bone tissue and reach the greatest possible peak bone mass, you need adequate calcium, vitamin D and exercise. In many situations, bone loss (“overdrawing the bank account”) can be prevented by continuing to intake adequate calcium and vitamin D, maintaining a regular exercise program, and by avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol.
Osteoporosis develops when bone removal occurs too quickly, replacement occurs too slowly, or both. You are more likely to develop osteoporosis if you did not reach peak bone mass during your bone-building years. Bone density is much like a honeycomb. A person with good bone strength will have a tightly woven bone matrix, whereas someone with osteoporosis will have large gaps that make the bone weak.
Who Gets Osteoporosis?
Most people associate osteoporosis as a concern for women. However, 20% of people with osteoporosis are men, and as many as 2 million American men already have osteoporosis (WebMD). Overall, men typically have a higher bone mass than females, and men don’t experience the rapid loss women see as a result of menopause. Unfortunately, men seldom discuss this topic with their health professional; thus, osteoporosis may go undetected in men until much later in life.
Osteoporosis is not inevitable, and it is never too late for action. Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, it can be treated. However, prevention is always the best line of defense, and less costly. Being proactive is good advice no matter what a person’s age.
Interestingly, no matter what the person’s age, the procedures for maintaining bone strength and density are similar.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Obtain the daily recommendations of calcium and vitamin D. Consult your health professional or registered dietician regarding correct dosage.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about any side effects of your medications.
- Consult with your healthcare provider regarding bone density testing.
- Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises; water resistance exercise has merit. Wolff’s Law states that forces applied to the bone have a direct relationship to strength of the bone. When the muscle pulls on the bone, the bone responds by becoming stronger. Individuals who have been physically active throughout their lives generally have stronger bones than do those who have led more sedentary lives. But it’s never too late to start exercising. Safely exercising with osteoporosis means finding the safest, most enjoyable activities based upon overall health and amount of bone loss. There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription. Manage your bone bank account with proper diet, healthy lifestyles and regular exercise RESOURCES URL Resource:
Dr. Karl Knopf has been involved in health and fitness for over 40 years. During this time he has worked in almost every aspect of the industry, from personal trainer and therapist to consultant. He retired in 2013, but while at Foothill College he was the Coordinator of the Adaptive Fitness Technician Program and Life Long Learning Institute. Currently Dr. Knopf is the Director of Fitness Therapy and Senior Fitness at the International Sports Science Association and is on the advisor board of PBS’s Sit and Be Fit Show. Find more information on exercise and osteoporosis in Dr. Knopf’s book, “Beat Osteoporosis With Exercise”, published by Ulysses Press. Order by phone at 1-800-377-2542; also available online at Amazon