Bones play many roles in the body. They provide structure, protect organs, anchor muscles, and store calcium. Adequate calcium consumption and weight bearing physical activity build strong bones, optimizes bone mass, and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
A bone density test determines if you have osteoporosis — a disease that causes bones to become more fragile and more likely to break. In the past, osteoporosis could be detected only after you broke a bone. By that time, however, your bones could be quite weak. A bone density test makes it possible to know your risk of breaking bones before the fact.
A bone density test uses X-rays to measure how many grams of calcium and other bone minerals are packed into a segment of bone. The bones that are most commonly tested are located in the spine, hip and forearm. Baseline bone-density testing for women is recommended at age 50. Regardless of your sex or age, your doctor may recommend a bone density test if you’ve: Lost height. People who have lost at least 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) in height may have experienced compression fractures in their spines. Osteoporosis is one of the main causes of compression fractures.
Fractured a bone. Fragility fractures occur when a bone becomes so fragile that it breaks much more easily than expected. Fragility fractures can sometimes be caused by a strong cough or sneeze.
Taken certain drugs. Long-term use of steroid medications, such as prednisone, interferes with the bone rebuilding process — which can lead to osteoporosis.
Received a transplant. People who have received an organ or bone marrow transplant are at higher risk of osteoporosis, partly because anti-rejection drugs also interfere with the bone-rebuilding process.
Experienced a drop in hormone levels. In addition to the natural drop in hormones that occurs after menopause, women may also experience a drop in estrogen during certain cancer treatments. Some treatments for prostate cancer reduce testosterone levels in men. Lowered hormone levels weaken bone.
Peak Bone Mass
Peak bone mass refers to the genetic potential for bone density. By the age of 20, the average woman has acquired most of her skeletal mass. A large decline in bone mass occurs in older adults, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. For women this occurs around the time of menopause. It is important for young girls to reach their peak bone mass in order to maintain bone health throughout life. A person with high bone mass as a young adult will be more likely to have a higher bone mass later in life. Inadequate calcium consumption and physical activity early on could result in a failure to achieve peak bone mass in adulthood.
OsteoporosisOsteoporosis or “porous bone” is a disease of the skeletal system characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue. Osteoporosis leads to an increase risk of bone fractures typically in the wrist, hip, and spine.
While men and women of all ages and ethnicities can develop osteoporosis, some of the risk factors for osteoporosis include those who are: Female, White/Caucasian, Post menopausal women, Older adults, Small in body size, Eating a diet low in calcium, Physically inactive. Calcium is a mineral needed by the body for healthy bones, teeth, and proper function of the heart, muscles, and nerves. The body cannot produce calcium; therefore, it must be absorbed through food. Good sources of calcium include: Dairy products - low fat or nonfat milk, cheese, and yogurt; Dark green leafy vegetables—bok choy and broccoli; Calcium fortified foods — orange juice, cereal, bread, soy beverages, and tofu products; Nuts — almonds.
Vitamin D also plays an important role in healthy bone development. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium (this is why milk is fortified with vitamin D).
Weight-Bearing Physical Activity
Regular physical activity has been associated with many positive health benefits including strong bones. Like proper calcium consumption, adequate weight-bearing physical activity early in life is important in reaching peak bone mass. Weight-bearing physical activities cause muscles and bones to work against gravity. Some examples of weight bearing physical activities include: Walking, Jogging, or running; Tennis or Racquetball; Field Hockey; Stair climbing; Jumping rope; Basketball; Dancing; Hiking; Soccer; Weight lifting.
Incorporating weight-bearing physical activity into an exercise plan is a great way to keep bones healthy and meet physical activity recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.