Understanding Osteoporosis

Health Check

Understanding osteoporosis is important, particularly for women. Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by loss of calcium from the long bones and spinal vertebrae of the body. Generally, 15 percent of bone mass is lost. This disease affects 25 million Americans and is most prevalent in women. Of these women, 65 percent are postmenopausal and 25 percent are going through menopause. The remaining 10 percent of individuals affected by osteoporosis are younger males and females with no known cause.

It is interesting to note that 50% of women over 65 show a 1/3 decrease in bone density on an x-ray. This loss of bone density predisposes them to fractures in certain areas including the femur bone, the hip joint, the upper humerus or arm bone, the vertebrae, and the ribs. Each year 250,000 women fracture their hips due to osteoporosis in the upper portion of the femur bone. Fractures in the other areas such as the humerus, vertebrae, and ribs account for another million.

Understanding Osteoporosis – Treating This Condition

Loss of calcium often results from decreased activity, a decrease in dietary intake of calcium, or chronic smoking. Nutritional supplements often help. Both menopausal and post-menopausal women should take at least 1500 milligrams of calcium per day per recommendations. Other women are encouraged to take at least 1000 milligrams of calcium a day to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Each of the following food sources contains three hundred milligrams of calcium: one ounce of non-fat cheese, eight ounces of milk or yogurt, one and a half ounces of frozen yogurt, two and a half cups of broccoli, and two cups of dark leafy greens.

Exercise also has a significant effect in reducing osteoporosis. The American College of Sports Medicine advocates an exercise program that combines 15 minutes of aerobic activity (for example bicycle, treadmill, swimming, or stairs) with 15 minutes of weight training involving all the major muscle groups three times per week. Resistive weight training also helps to increase bone density in osteoporosis women by in average of 10% to 20% after 12 weeks.

Please refer to patient education for other brief articles in our educational series. It is through these articles, in part, that we keep our patients (and others) informed of common injuries and conditions, their treatment and healthcare in general.