Osteoporosis Strikes Every 20 Seconds

Elizabeth S. Reames, Montgomery, Donna  |  10/4/2004 4:23:39 AM

"Every 20 seconds, osteoporosis causes a fracture," warns an LSU AgCenter nutrition education expert. Specialist Donna Montgomery says osteoporosis is a painful, disfiguring disease that strikes one in every two women and one in every eight men above age 50.

This disease reduces bone density gradually, Montgomery explains, weakening the bones until they break and fracture easily. 

"Calcium can drain out of bones for years without a person being aware anything is wrong," she says. Bone is living, changing tissue. Throughout life, bone is being removed and rebuilt. During adolescence and early adult years, more new bone is formed than is broken down. Later, particularly after menopause, more bone is lost than replaced. 

"All women 50 years and older should have a bone scan to determine risk for osteoporosis," Montgomery advises.

"You are at greater risk for osteoporosis if you have any of these risk factors which you cannot change," the educator says, "being female, older, Caucasian or Asian, having a low estrogen level due to menopause or hysterectomy and having a family history of osteoporosis."

Other risk factors that you can change are a diet low in calcium and vitamin D, inadequate exercise, smoking, drinking too much alcohol and prolonged use of some medications.

"Treating osteoporosis and protecting your bones is more than just taking calcium supplements and preventing falls," the specialist notes, pointing out that the whole diet is important, but calcium and vitamin D are particularly critical. 

"The other two most important bone protectors are weight-bearing exercise and proper hormone levels, especially estrogen for women," she says. "In addition, maintain a healthy lifestyle. That means no smoking or excessive use of alcohol."

Remember that calcium counts. Bones cannot be built and maintained without the right balance of calcium and vitamin D. Include two or three servings a day of calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, collard greens, sardines with bone or calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice with added calcium. 

How much calcium should you have daily? Teens should have 1,300 mg daily, adults 19-50 should have 1,000 mg daily and adults 51 and older should have 1,200 mg. Some experts recommend 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women not on estrogen therapy. One 8-ounce glass of milk has about 300 mg of calcium. Skim milk has slightly more calcium than whole milk.

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