Be Good To Your Bones and They’ll Be Good To You
The human skeleton is made of 206 bones linked by joints and soft tissue. Those bones hold us upright, assist in propelling us through our daily lives, and protect our vital organs. On any given day, most of us probably don’t give our bones a second thought – but we should. Keeping your bones strong and healthy is a cornerstone in living an active and fulfilling life.
We hear a lot today about “fragility fractures”. Frequently this conjures up the image of an elderly person falling and breaking a hip (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”). But you don’t have to be elderly to be at increased risk for a fracture. Truth be known, up to half of all women and a quarter of men over the age of 50 can expect to break a bone related to low bone density or osteoporosis. And studies have shown that if you have one broken bone related to low bone density, you are four times more likely to have another fracture compared to those who have not had a fracture.
So what can you do? Regardless of your age, make sure you get adequate Calcium and Vitamin D in your diet. Starting as early as age 4, children should get at least 1000mg of Calcium daily to build a good bone density base. Young women need to increase that intake to 1300mg per day during childbearing years. Both men and women over age 50 should continue to take 1200mg per day to aid in maintaining bone density.
Vitamin D is key in helping the body absorb and utilize Calcium. While you can get some Vitamin D from sunlight, here in the Northwest, our lack of sun makes depending on it as a source a dicey proposition. Currently, there is some debate about the optimal recommended dosage, but at least 600 IU daily should be a minimum.
As for medications that help with decreasing bone loss such as bisphosphonates (eg. Fosamax, Reclast, Boniva etc), these are not without side effects including increasing the risk of certain type of hip fractures. Before trying any of these have a full discussion with your doctor about the pros and cons.
Exercise! Weight bearing activities strengthen bones naturally. You don’t need to be a triathlete – just go for a walk.
For more information, a great resource is www.ownthebone.org. Here’s to your health!
Anne P. McCormack, MD
Northwest Hand & Orthopedics