A disease with no symptoms, osteoporosis affects around 20% of men and 80% of women.
An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 34 million have low bone mass (osteopenia). As the bones gradually become weaker, they are more likely to break from a minor fall or, if left untreated, even from something as simple as a sneeze. The most common fracture sites are the hip, wrist and spine, although any bone in the body can be affected.
Exercise regularly: Weight-bearing exercises such as walking and jogging can benefit the bones.
A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis can be scary, leading some people to stop exercising due to fear it will cause fractures. The truth is that those with low bone mass should make it a point to exercise on a regular basis.
Being active has been shown to not only help prevent osteoporosis, but slow bone loss once if it has begun. Before beginning an exercise programme, it is important to check with your doctor for guidelines, as the degree of bone loss determines what type of exercise is best.
Physicians can assess bone density and fracture risk by scanning the body with a special type of X-ray machine. Along with exercise, treatment may include dietary modifications and/or oestrogen replacement therapy.
Increase bone density
The more you know about this condition, the more you can do to help prevent its onset.
To build strength and bone mass, both weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises are ideal. Weight-bearing exercises are those that require the bones to fully support your weight against gravity. Examples are walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing or using an elliptical machine. Non-weight bearing exercises include biking, swimming, water aerobics and rowing. Weight-bearing activities such as walking, as little as three times a week, can benefit the bones.
Resistance training places mechanical force (stress) on the body, which in turn increases bone density. Start by lifting light weights, moving in a slow and controlled manner, increasing resistance as you become stronger.
Avoid high-impact exercises
It is highly recommended that individuals with osteoporosis avoid the following types of activity:
Step aerobics and high-impact activities such as running, jumping, tennis.
Activities that involve rounding, bending and twisting of the spine.
Moving the legs sideways or across the body, especially when performed against resistance.
Rowing machines, trampolines.
Any movement that involves pulling on the head and neck.
Risk factors you can control
Certain factors increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. While some of these risk factors are controllable, others are not.
Risk factors that can be controlled are: sedentary lifestyle, excess intake of protein, sodium, caffeine and/or alcohol, smoking, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies, and certain medicines.
Body size (small frame), gender, family history and ethnicity are risk factors that cannot be controlled. Women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the five-seven years after menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.
But it is never too early to start thinking about bone density. About 85-90% of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.
©2010/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Marjie Gilliam is an International Sports Sciences Master-certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. She owns Custom Fitness Personal Training Services. This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News.