But why milk? While milk alone won’t prevent osteoporosis, dairy products like milk are rich in calcium, an essential nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones. In addition, getting an early start is especially important, as the NOF notes that roughly 85-90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys. Though this still might not inspire kids to pour themselves a glass of milk, perhaps a better understanding of osteoporosis and its potentially debilitating effects can inspire adults and children alike to do all they can to prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is often mistaken as a condition that only affects little old ladies. While osteoporosis is most common in older women, anyone can develop it. As many as half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis, which many men and women are not even aware they have until that initial injury occurs.
What Happens When a Person Has Osteoporosis?
When discussing osteoporosis, it’s best to first discuss osteopenia, a silent condition that precedes osteoporosis, often robbing bones of their strength. Osteopenia is related to bone mineral density, which measures the levels of minerals in the bones. When BMD levels are low, a person is said to have osteopenia, which can, and often does, gradually become osteoporosis.
Osteopenia is akin to an accomplished art thief. Methodical and often unnoticed, osteopenia exhibits no physical signs, and even the most physically active people could have osteopenia and not know it. The first warning sign could be a fractured bone.
When a person has fractured a bone, he or she might already have osteoporosis. When osteoporosis has established itself, the bones have weakened and become thin and are highly susceptible to fracture. For example, it’s not impossible for a person with osteoporosis to lift a bag of groceries and break a bone or suffer a collapsed vertebra in the back. Such a task might otherwise seem trivial, but to a person with osteoporosis, no physical activity is without risk.
Can Osteoporosis Be Prevented?
Fortunately, osteoporosis and any resulting fractures can often be prevented. As previously mentioned, thanks to bone mass development it’s important for parents to encourage kids to increase the amount of calcium in their diet. Milk and dairy products, preferably low fat versions; dark green leafy vegetables (including broccoli, collards and kale); and calcium-fortified orange juice are great sources of calcium.
Another way to prevent osteoporosis is to exercise regularly. Routine exercise helps strengthen bones and muscles and prevent bone loss. Weight-bearing exercises, which include walking, jogging and even dancing, done three to four times a week are the best for preventing osteoporosis. Strength and balance exercises also help avoid falling, decreasing the risk of broken bones.
Adequate calcium is necessary to prevent osteoporosis, but men and women must also make sure to include vitamin D in their diet. Vitamin D, which can be found in eggs, fatty fish (including salmon), cereal, and even some supplements, is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Research continues to indicate that people are simply not getting enough vitamin D. Discuss vitamin D with a physician to determine the best way to get more of it in your daily diet. A vitamin D supplement might be the most viable option.
To learn more about osteoporosis, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation at www.nof.org.