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July 17, 2007 > Protect Your Bones to Prevent Osteoporosis

Protect Your Bones to Prevent Osteoporosis

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Bone Care Tips

Bones play a critical role in our overall health. Like scaffolding, they provide the structural support that holds up our bodies. From the time we are young, there are steps we can take to protect and nurture our bones to prevent problems later in life, such as osteoporosis. And if you already suffer from the disease, there are ways you can prevent serious damage to your bones.

"There are things you can do throughout your life to promote good bone health," said Dr. Barry Shibuya, a rheumatologist at Washington Hospital.

He will provide tips for good bone care for those who want to prevent osteoporosis as well as for those who already have it at an upcoming Lunch and Learn seminar on Thursday, July 26, at the Washington Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. Two sessions of "Protect and Nurture Your Bones" are scheduled, with one from 12 to 1 p.m. and the other one from 2 to 3 p.m. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue. This can lead to fragile bones and an increased risk of bone fractures, especially in the hip, spine and wrist. An estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 8 million of those are women, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Osteoporosis is often called the silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. You may not know you have it until your bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture or a vertebra in your back to collapse.

Building strong bones, especially before the age of 30, can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis, which is preventable for most people. A healthy lifestyle is the key to keeping bones strong.
Calcium, Vitamin D and Exercise Strengthen Bones

Calcium is critical when it comes to preventing bone loss because calcium actually builds bones. In fact, your body's need for calcium actually increases as you age. When you reach 40, your body starts to absorb calcium from your diet at a lower rate. You need to eat foods high in calcium to make up for the lower absorption and to help maintain the bone strength you gained when you were young. Unfortunately, most Americans get less than half their daily calcium needs.

Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Without enough Vitamin D, your body can't absorb calcium from the foods you eat and your body will have to take calcium from your bones. We get Vitamin D through our skin from direct sunlight and from food.

"The daily recommended allowance of Vitamin D was just raised from 400 Individual Units (IU) to 800 IU," Shibuya said. "Many people don't get enough Vitamin D because more of us are wearing sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, which blocks out the ultraviolet light B (UVB) needed for the skin to make Vitamin D."

Exercise is also important for good bone health. Those who exercise regularly in childhood and adolescence are more likely to reach their peak bone density than those who are inactive.

Evidence shows that inactivity also leads to loss of bone mass as you age. The good news is it's never too late to get moving. Even if you already have osteoporosis, regular aerobic exercise like walking or dancing and regular strength training can help to increase bone mass. Exercise can also help increase balance and coordination and reduce the risk of a fall, which could result in a life-altering fracture.

Learn More

To learn more about good bone care, including how to prevent falls, and get your questions answered, sign up for the seminar at (800) 963-7070. To learn more about the upcoming Arthritis Foundation Exercise courses that are being held at the Washington Women's Center, see the article on this page titled: "Exercise Program Helps Women with Arthritis Get Moving."

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