Bone Health - Why it's important at any age
by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP
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Bone health is an important aspect of overall health that is often overlooked until there is a problem, such as a fracture or a diagnosis of osteoporosis. However, caring for bone health and bone density prior to being diagnosed with osteoporosis is crucial for maintaining mobility, independence, and quality of life as we age. In this blog post, we will explore why it is important to care about bone health and bone density before being diagnosed with osteoporosis.
What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when bones become weak and brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. It is most common in older adults, particularly women, but can also occur in younger adults who have certain medical conditions or take certain medications. Osteoporosis is often referred to as a “silent disease” because it typically does not cause symptoms until a fracture occurs.
What’s the difference between Osteoporosis and Osteopenia?
Osteopenia and osteoporosis are both bone conditions, but they differ in their severity and the risk of fracture associated with them. Osteopenia is a condition in which the bone density is lower than normal, but not low enough to be classified as osteoporosis. It is often considered a precursor to osteoporosis. People with osteopenia have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis and are advised to make lifestyle changes to prevent bone loss, such as increasing calcium and vitamin D intake and engaging in weight-bearing exercise. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, is a disease in which the bones become brittle and fragile due to severe loss of bone density. Fractures are a common complication of osteoporosis, and the risk of fracture increases with age. Treatment for osteoporosis typically involves medication and lifestyle changes to improve bone health and reduce the risk of fractures.
The diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis usually involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests. A healthcare provider may inquire about any risk factors for bone loss, such as family history, lifestyle habits, and medications taken. Physical examination may include measuring height and weight, checking for spinal curvature, and evaluating posture and gait. Imaging tests, such as a bone density scan, are used to measure bone density and assess the risk of fracture. The most commonly used test for osteoporosis is the dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan, which uses low-level X-rays to measure bone mineral density. Results of the DEXA scan are expressed as a T-score, which compares the patient’s bone density to that of a young, healthy adult of the same gender. A T-score between -1 and -2.5 indicates osteopenia, while a T-score of -2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis.
Why is Bone Health Important?
Bones are living tissue that are constantly breaking down and rebuilding. When we are young, our bodies build bone faster than they break it down, resulting in stronger, denser bones. However, as we age, our bodies break down bone faster than they can build it, resulting in weaker, less dense bones. This can increase the risk of fractures, particularly in the hips, spine, and wrists.
Maintaining good bone health is important for several reasons. Strong bones provide the framework for the body and allow us to move, support our organs, and protect our internal organs. Additionally, bones store minerals such as calcium, which are essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth. Weak bones can lead to fractures, which can be painful and limit mobility, and can also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Caring for Bone Health Before Osteoporosis
Caring for bone health before being diagnosed with osteoporosis is important for several reasons. First, it can help prevent the development of osteoporosis by maintaining good bone density. Second, it can help reduce the risk of fractures, which can have a significant impact on quality of life, particularly in older adults. Finally, caring for bone health before osteoporosis occurs can help ensure that treatment is more effective if osteoporosis does develop.
There are several ways to care for bone health before being diagnosed with osteoporosis. One of the most important is to engage in regular physical activity, particularly weight-bearing exercise such as walking, running, and weightlifting. Weight-bearing exercise stimulates the body to lay down more bone tissue, which increases bone density and strength.
Additionally, it is important to maintain a healthy diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, both of which are important for bone health. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Good dietary sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods such as cereal and orange juice. Vitamin D is produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight, but it can also be found in foods such as fatty fish and fortified foods such as milk and cereal.
Finally, it is important to avoid behaviors that can harm bone health, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Smoking has been shown to decrease bone density, while excessive alcohol consumption can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can also increase the risk of falls and fractures.
Maintaining good bone health and bone density is important for maintaining mobility, independence, and quality of life as we age. By caring for bone health\, we can help prevent the development of osteoporosis, reduce the risk of fractures, and ensure that treatment is more effective if osteoporosis does develop. Engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding harmful behaviors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are all important
*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result. This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional. No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.