It wasn't until 2004, when the then U.S Surgeon General Richard Carmona, warned about the dangers of osteoporosis, that this disease was being given some much needed attention. More than 44 million Americans at that time were affected by osteoporosis, and there were nearly 300,000 hospitalizations because of this condition. The statistics show that the disease has been becoming more prevalent.
Over one and half million people over the age of 62 will suffer a fracture of the spine, wrist, elbow, knee, or hip. Of the 300,000 hospitalizations mentioned above, 25 percent of those with hip fractures will die within a year. Although more women are affected, men are equally at risk. Men usually have more bone density than women and don't start losing this density until about the age of 70, whereas women start around age 62. Because of this, their healthcare providers do not monitor their bone density levels as they would with a women patient. Men need to be made aware that they are as much at risk as are women, and should discuss this with their healthcare provider.
Bone is a porous network called "trabecular bone", resembling a very fine sponge. It is also made up mineral (inorganic) and a non-mineral (organic) matrix. The most common areas where trabecular bone is lost are the spine, neck of the femur (thigh bone), the far end of the radial bone (at the wrist), shoulder, and the ribs. Other areas of the skeleton can be involved as well.
When bone density diminishes in one or more vertebrae, the result can be a crush fracture. The usual site for this happening is the 8th thoracic vertebra and below. (mid-back area). The patient may not be aware of this occurrence at the time, but as time goes on, the back develops an ache before becoming an ongoing extremely painful condition. The individual may also develop a rounded condition called a Kyphosis. This condition is also very often referred to as "Widows Hump". Very often hip fractures will occur spontaneously, even when there is no trauma associated with the occurrence. The individual may be in the act of just sitting down, or bending when the fracture occurs.
Very often the individual will not be aware that they have lost bone density, and is still losing bone density, until they have experienced some form of trauma, such as a fall, a bear hug greeting, or even when riding in a car and there is a sudden sharp stop, causing a jolt to the body. This trauma will cause the exacerbation of the condition that may have been dormant for many years.
The onset of bone density loss can be due to many different causes. These can be hormonal, inadequate intestinal calcium absorption, poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle. As we get older, there can be more problems with absorption of nutrients, so loss of bone density may also be age related. If you combine poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle at an early age, you will almost be sure to develop age related osteoporosis. If the condition is not addressed at the earliest possible time, the individual becomes more prone to fractures. Therefore, if anyone starts to experience aches or pains for no apparent reasons, it is incumbent upon them to seek advice from their healthcare provider to get a definitive diagnosis and receive proper treatment. The healthcare provider will surely order X-rays that will provide evidence if crush fractures are indeed present.
Read in health hints below how to prevent and cope with bone density loss. The optimum word is prevention. The sooner one starts a program of prevention, the less bone density they will lose as they get older and will escape the pitfalls of osteoporosis.
1. As mentioned above, it is important to see your healthcare provider if any symptoms are starting to occur. If the subject of doing a bone density test is not brought up, it is incumbent upon the patient to bring it up. Tell the doctor that you would like to have the test performed.
2. Diet is extremely important in the maintenance of healthy bone mass. The diet should include foods rich in calcium. These foods include dairy foods, such as yogurt, low-fat milk and cheese, preferably the low-fat variety. Green leafy vegetables and broccoli should be a part of the diet. Vary your diet by eating different vegetables each day. Fish, such as salmon, sardines scallops and oysters should be eaten twice weekly. Look for breakfast cereals and juices that have been fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Another important nutrient for increasing bone density is vitamin K and is needed for proper blood clotting. Maintaining a normal clotting factor is vital for the transportation of calcium throughout the entire body.
3. If you feel you cannot sustain a proper diet, you should take a proper supplement in order to fortify the diet, making sure that you get the necessary requirements. This too, should be discussed with your. Doctor. It is important to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement daily. The supplement you take should also contain. the needed vitamin D and vitamin K. The vitamin D aids in the absorption of the. calcium and the vitamin K in its transportation. Before the age of 50, both men and women should take 1,000 mg. of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D on a daily basis. After age 62, they should increase the calcium to 1,200 mg. of calcium and 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D. If you are not getting enough exposure to the sun, some nutritionists believe that 1000 IU of vitamin D is appropriate.
4. Smoking will decrease bone density and should be stopped.
5. Alcohol should not be used excessively. Women are permitted one glass of wine daily and men are permitted two glasses daily
6. Caffeine should be reduced as much as possible.
7. Being overweight can be a contributing factor to bone density loss and every effort should be made to loss weight.
8. Exercise can be one of the most important things you can do to maintain and improve your bone density levels. Sedentary lifestyles have been one of the greatest contributors of developing osteoporosis. It is important to keep moving as much as possible. Walk whenever possible. Swim, ride a bicycle, go bowling, golfing or play tennis, whatever suits you. Find an exercise program that you are happy with, one that you won't give up within a week or a month.
It is important to remember that it is never too late, or you are never too old to improve your bone density levels. By doing so, you reduce your chances of sustaining any type of fracture.
Dr. Emanuel M. Cane, D.C.
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