Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jun. 15--CLINTON -- Osteoporosis is a very real threat for millions of Americans, but there are preventative measures everyone can take.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, nearly 44 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis. Already, about 10 million individuals have the disease and another 34 million are affected by low bone mass, putting them at risk for osteoporosis.
The Mayo Clinic defines osteoporosis as a condition which causes bones to become weak and brittle, meaning that fractures can be caused by simple things like bending over, lifting a vacuum cleaner or coughing.
Dr. Wade Lenz of Clinton's Medical Associates says that Caucasian, thin females have the highest risk of contracting osteoporosis. Some men also have an elevated risk, especially if they take chronic steroids and medication that reduces calcium.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the older people become, the higher their risk of osteoporosis.
Other risk factors listed by the NOF include a family history of osteoporosis, being small and thin, an inactive lifestyle, smoking and excessive alcohol intake and certain medications such as steroid medications.
Lenz also indicated that individuals who take PPIs (Proton Pump Inhibitors) like Nexium and Prilosec, may be at a higher risk of osteoporosis.
"The key in management is prevention," Dr. Mona Alqulali, board certified OB-GYN, said of osteoporosis.
According to Alqulali, bone formation is a dynamic process throughout life. In women, from birth to age 32, bones are building. After age 32, this process stops and after menopause, it starts to go down, with bones becoming weaker.
"Accumulate the biggest density you can up to age 32," said Alqulali, who indicated that calcium and vitamin D help keep bones healthy.
Alqulali and Lenz recommend that people get at least 800 international units of vitamin D each day and 1,500 milligrams of calcium. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and can be taken in the form of supplements. Sun exposure is also a source of vitamin D, along with oily fish like sardines and tuna, indicated Alqulali.
Alqulali also stated that it is important to live a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet of "rainbow" food and exercise regularly.
Lenz and Alqulali indicated that weight-bearing exercises are important in the prevention of osteoporosis.
"Combine strength training and weight-bearing, this makes the muscles and bones work together," said Alqulali. She recommends walking, running, jogging or stair climbing to help the legs, hips and lower thighs.
"How long you exercise depends on your needs; the point is to get active," Alqulali stated.
Also, eating a variety of colorful foods will ensure a balanced, calcium-rich diet.
"For children and families, calcium is really important," said Alqulali. She recommends a "rainbow" diet of different foods like almonds, broccoli, salmon, oats, soy and dairy products.
Along with prevention, testing for osteoporosis is also important.
The average recommended age that women should begin getting tested for osteoporosis is 65, Lenz said. However, if certain risk factors are present, that age may be changed to 60.
"If you've had a fracture, you should be screened (for osteoporosis)," said Lenz.
The Mayo Clinic recommends women should also be tested if they have vertebral abnormality, type one diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, a family history of osteoporosis, or if they have experienced early menopause.
"When and how you do (testing and treatments), you need to be discussing with your doctor," Alqulali stated.
She indicated that osteoporosis patients have many options for medications, stating, "Treatment is on an individual basis."