By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
It is estimated that by year 2020, one-half of Americans older than 50 years will be at risk for bone fractures caused by osteoporosis, a bone disease that causes the bones to become weaker and more likely to break.
It can occur in anyone but is most common in older women. But it is not restricted to adults – it also can occur in children and adolescents.
Researchers are finding that while osteoporosis was once thought to be an inevitable part of aging, it actually has its beginnings in childhood.
The factors that are shown to affect bone mass are many, and some we are able to change and others we cannot. The factors we cannot change are genetics, gender and ethnicity.
- African-Americans tend to have higher bone-mass levels than Caucasians and Asians.
- Hispanic women tend to have bone-mass levels lower than African-Americans but higher than Caucasians and Asians.
- Peak bone mass is the maximum of bone density a person can reach, usually by ages 16 to 25. It is important to build strong bones in the growing years to maintain strong bones in adulthood.
But we can play a part in keeping our bones strong and avoiding fractures.
If you are a parent of young children or adolescents, you can help your children make healthy choices by encouraging them and eating a diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D, getting regular exercise (it works best to do this as a family) and avoid smoking.
Other factors affecting bone health may include certain medications and/or disease. Some of them include:
- Glucocorticoids (steroids)
- Immunosuppressive drugs
- Low testosterone levels
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Gastrointestinal diseases (especially those of the small intestines)
- Certain medications for seizures
If you are a woman age 65 or older, schedule a bone density test. If you are age 64 or younger and have gone through menopause, consult with your health care provider to determine when to get a bone-density test.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force also recommends that all men age 70 years or older obtain a bone-density test (also known as a DEXA scan).
Many view osteoporosis as a women’s disease, but men who have a diet lacking calcium and Vitamin D, don’t exercise enough and are heavy drinkers and smokers also might acquire this disease.
If you are concerned about the possibility of getting this disease, have further questions or would like testing, contact your health care provider.
For an overview of the dietary recommendations for Vitamin D and calcium, click here.