Osteoporosis and Screening
Osteoporosis is a disease that reduces the strength and mass of bones, making them fragile and susceptible to fractures. Although it is most common in middle-aged and older women, osteoporosis can affect both men and women of any age. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about nine million Americans have osteoporosis and an estimated 48 million have low bone density. This means that nearly 60 percent of adults age 50 and older are at risk. One in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis. One measure of the health of bones is “bone mineral density” or BMD for short. A bone scan to assess BMD is a relatively simple procedure that is offered by medical practitioners. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of experts commissioned by the government to study the evidence behind routine health screens, has issued guidelines for osteoporosis screening. They recommend that women younger than 60 get bone density scans if they have risk factors that increase the likelihood that they could experience a fracture within the next 10 years. That means women with parents who fractured bones, a broken bone after age 50, post-menopausal, a history of smoking, alcohol abuse, or a slender frame. The panel maintained its recommendation that women age 65 and over and men 70 and over should get bone density testing, even if they have no other risk factors. Plan for the future - Talk with your health care provider to find out what is recommended for you.
Pressure your bones into growing stronger
For bones to increase and maintain their density, they require the application of weight-bearing force.
In fact, studies suggest that the best exercise may not only be weight-bearing but also impact exercise. This means imparting a jolt to muscle and bone such as you would when placing a foot forcefully on the ground while running, or lifting or pushing a weight suddenly. Naturally, you have to ensure you do such exercise safely. Weight-bearing exercise, when preformed correctly, causes the muscles and tendons to pull on the bones. This stimulates them to produce new cells to replace old ones and absorb calcium, making them harder. The load on the bones can be created by your own body weight or by external weights like dumbbells or gym machines in a weight training program.
Appropriate exercise as we age, not only help keep bones healthy, it protects against falls and fractures as well improving balance and strength.
Suggested Exercises to Help Build Bone Density
While all exercise benefits your general fitness. Weight-bearing exercise is best for strengthening bones.
Some good examples are:
- Running and jogging
- Aerobics class -- step, dance, and floor aerobics
- Weight lifting -- dumbbells, barbells, machines, body weight exercises
- Team sports involving running and throwing -- basketball, football, baseball, softball, volleyball
- Individual sports involving running -- racket sports
- Walking (but less effective than running or jogging)
Examples of least effective exercises:
- Water aerobics
These exercises are not useful for building bone density but are still effective in building cardiovascular fitness. Bear in mind that running or leg-based exercise acts mainly on the lower body.
And although much of the disabling effect of bone loss is felt in the hips and spine, exercising the upper body with weight-bearing exercise is of equal importance. Broken wrists and arms from falls, as we age, are not uncommon.
Without proper diet and exercise, bone density deteriorates over time, leading to symptoms such as back pain, poor posture and fractures. A well-rounded fitness plan, including cardiovascular exercise, weight training and flexibility exercises, combined with a healthy food plan, will help to prevent bone loss as we age.
Blog post by Ally Wilson.