Osteoporosis causes two million broken bones every year. Are you at risk?
Everyone starts to lose bone mass after age 35. For millions of Americans, however, a disease called osteoporosis weakens bones even further and makes them more susceptible to fractures. Bones are constantly replacing calcium, but when your bones lose more calcium than is replaced, your bones become porous.
While men and women of all ages can develop osteoporosis, it’s more common in older women. This is due in part to the fact that women lose more bone mass than men over the course of their lives, particularly after menopause.
Risk factors for osteoporosis include:
- body size
- calcium and vitamin D deficit
- excessive alcohol consumption
- family history
The only way to diagnose osteoporosis before you break a bone is to have a bone density test. A dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) machine estimates the density of the bone in your hip, your spine and sometimes other bones. The results of this test help your doctor determine the best path for you moving forward.
You might need a bone density test if you are:
- 50 or older and have broken a bone
- 65 or younger and postmenopausal, and have other risk factors
- a woman 65 or older
- a man 70 or older
- a man between the ages of 50 and 69, and have other risk factors
Your doctor may also recommend a bone density test if you have experienced more than a half-inch of height loss in a year, or if an X-ray indicates you may have bone loss or a break in your spine.
Protect Your Bones
While risk factors like age, gender and ethnicity are things you cannot change, there are steps you can take to slow bone loss and decrease your chances of a possibly devastating bone break. In addition to curbing excessive alcohol consumption and quitting smoking, regular weight-bearing exercise is a great way to rebuild bone mass.
Nutrition is also key. To strengthen bones, be sure your diet is rich in both calcium and Vitamin D. Daily recommendations for the average adult male between the ages of 51 and 70 are 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day and 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Women in the same age group need the same amount of vitamin D – 600 IU per day – the calcium recommendation is 1,200 milligrams per day. Fortified cereals and low-fat dairy products are great sources of each.
To learn more about your osteoporosis risk and bone density testing, ask your doctor. Need a doctor? Visit our Physician Finder.