By Rayni Joan
Osteoporosis -- which means "porous bone" -- is a deterioration and
weakening of bone density suffered by an estimated ten million people
worldwide, 80% of whom are post menopausal women. Not everyone with
osteoporosis has obvious symptoms -- such as curved shoulders and back.
Very often, people have no idea how much bone density they have lost
until they fracture a bone, most commonly a wrist, hip, rib, or spine.
For this reason, doctors recommend a bone density scan for women at age
50. Many women this age have signs of osteopenia, which means their
bones are getting thin but not thin enough to be osteoporosis.
Osteopenia usually signals a tendency to lose bone density, and often
warrants treatment which can slow down bone loss and possibly prevent
Few people realize that bone tissue is constantly in flux. Cells called
"osteoblasts" create new bone, and "osteoclasts" are the "vaccum
cleaners" that sweep out old and weak bone. In osteoporosis, osteoblast
cells do not create new bone as quickly as osteoclasts get rid of the
old, and thus, bones tend to thin out and weaken. At this point in
history, the most common pharmaceutical treatments interrupt the
sweeping job of osteoclast cells which allows weak bone tissue to remain
longer. Scientists are researching new ways to motivate osteoblasts to
produce new bone tissue at faster paces.
What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?
With thinness in vogue, it is ironic that women who manage to maintain
youthfully slim figures in middle age may be walking around with thin
bones, and unfashionably obese women have healthier bones, and far less
likely to develop either osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Other risk factors for osteoporosis are:
poor nutrition in adolescence and child-bearing years, particularly the
eating disorders anorexia and bulimia;
age -- the older you are, the weaker your bones become;
overconsumption of sugar, salt and sugary carbonated beverages (soda
heredity (if Mom has osteoporosis, you're more at risk);
early menopause -- either naturally or through hysterectomy.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes:
weight-bearing exercise, particularly walking;
proper nutrition with emphasis on cooked green vegetables like broccoli,
spinach, Swiss chard, collard and dandelion greens,
dietary calcium in the form of sardines, salmon with bone in, as well as
non-fat or low-fat dairy products.
Calcium supplements are often recommended for osteoporosis, as well as
an adequate Vitamin D level, which may require supplementation even in a
sunny climate. But it's wise to avoid calcium carbonate, which is not