Take Care of Your Bones
We are not the hardy species we were when pioneers crossed this continent on
foot or on horseback without roads, compass, or Holiday Inn Express. Perhaps it
is related to our diet, our nice cars and SUVs that keep us from walking, or the
climate controlled environment in which we live. Whatever the cause, we are
getting soft as a race. Even our bones are getting soft.
Ten million Americans have osteoporosis. 80% of these are women who suffer
debilitating and life-threatening fractures. Even worse, the proportion of people
with this condition continues to expand. Another 34 million have low bone mass
and are headed to osteoporosis unless something changes. By 2025, the cost of
osteoporosis – related fractures is estimated to be around $25.3 billion.
Reasons for the trend are still being researched. One issue is inactivity. Instead
of playing outside, many children today are sitting in front of televisions,
computers, or other electronic toys, exercising only their fingers. Not too long ago
I saw a three-year-old exhibiting blinding eye to hand coordination on an iPad.
While this was a stunning display of accelerated development, I wondered if this
child will ever go out and play soccer or ride a bicycle. Isn’t that old-fashioned of
Osteoporosis is not inevitable. It is a silent condition with no symptoms until a
fracture occurs, but screening can and should be done to identify the problem
ahead of time and prevent those fractures. Hip fractures get all of the attention in
the press, and they are serious, but wrist fractures are considered “sentinel”
fractures for this condition because they often happen first as a result of a fall or
Screening should be done every two years in the high risk group. The list of risk
factors begins with female gender, but men get osteoporosis, too. Being post-
menopausal, small frame, sedentary, or Caucasian or Asian will put you in the
high risk group. Smokers, high caffeine consumers, people with known calcium
or vitamin D deficiencies, those with prolonged hormonal imbalances, or women
who lose ovaries by age 45 are all high risk. A simple bone density scan every
two years among the high risk group will help monitor the condition.
So, what can we do? Exercise that forces you to resist gravity is good. That
includes walking, riding a bicycle, weightlifting, stair climbing, dancing, aerobics,
and even Tai Chi. Look over that list and notice how many can be done with a
friend. Group exercise is fun and provides some built-in accountability. However you want to do it, know that resistive exercise is the best way to maintain your
Many of us spend our entire lives inside. I think there has been much fear built
into exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, but some sun exposure is good
because it helps us make vitamin D. Many people are vitamin D deficient. I
personally take at least 2000 units every day. This will help you absorb calcium.
Speaking of calcium, 1200 mg of calcium daily is the next step.
Take care of your bones. Think of it this way: support them now and they will
support you later.