Osteoporosis- Know the Facts

By Diane Ruyack

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.

Researchers estimate that about 1 out of 5 American women over the age of 50 have osteoporosis. About half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra (bones of the spine).

Osteoporosis occurs when the body fails to form enough new bone, when too much old bone is reabsorbed by the body, or both.

Calcium and phosphate are two minerals that are essential for normal bone formation. Throughout youth, your body uses these minerals to produce bones. If you do not get enough calcium, or if your body does not absorb enough calcium from the diet, bone production and bone tissues may suffer.

Usually, the loss occurs gradually over years. Many times, a person will have a fracture before becoming aware that the disease is present. By the time a fracture occurs, the disease is in its advanced stages and damage is severe.

White women, especially those with a family history of osteoporosis, have a greater than average risk of developing osteoporosis. Other risk factors include: Absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea) for long periods of time, drinking a large amount of alcohol, family history of osteoporosis, smoking, and too little calcium in the diet. There are no symptoms in the early stages of the disease.

Later in the disease there will be bone pain or tenderness, fractures with little or no trauma, loss of height (as much as 6 inches) over time and even stooped posture or kyphosis, also called a “dowager’s hump.”

Regular exercise can reduce the likelihood of bone fractures in people with osteoporosis. Some of the recommended exercises include: weight-bearing exercises — walking, jogging, playing tennis, dancing and Resistance exercises — free weights, weight machines, stretch bands.

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