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When Should I Worry About My Bone Health?

When Should I Worry About My Bone Health?

You may think worrying about your bone health is strictly an “old lady” issue, and that osteoporosis -- a condition in which bones become weak and brittle – is just a part of growing old that you have to accept. That’s simply not true. Start thinking about your bones now -- the earlier the better.

Osteoporosis is called a “silent disease” because generally you won’t have any symptoms until a bone is broken. That’s why prevention and screening is so important. Complications from osteoporosis – especially fractures in the hip and spine -- can have a huge impact on quality of life, independence, and even survival.

Let’s explore some facts you may not have heard about your bone health:

Osteoporosis is preventable: It’s true! Prevention starts in childhood and the teen years. By your mid-20s, you have as much as 90% of your adult bone mass. (This is called peak bone mass – the greatest amount of bone you will have in your life). So the more bone you can build in the early years the less likely you are to have osteoporosis later in life. Think of your bones as a calcium bank: the more you deposit in the bank, the greater your balance. You start withdrawing from that bank later in life, so you want to start with a strong bank balance!

Diet plays a big part in bone health: You may know that calcium and vitamin D are important in bone health but don’t forget about magnesium, potassium and vitamin K. Make sure your diet has a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts/legumes. And make sure you are getting plenty of protein in your diet, which is essential for bone health throughout life. Try to avoid high sodium foods, including many processed and canned foods. Eating too much salt causes the body to lose calcium. More than three caffeinated beverages a day (350mg/day) can cause decreased calcium absorption.

Hormones are a major culprit: Typically, osteoporosis affects women over 50, but it’s not out of the question to have bone density issues if you have had early menopause. Estrogen -- which helps protect bone -- drops drastically after menopause, and bone loss speeds up. That’s a big reason why women are twice as likely to have osteoporosis than men.

Check your medications: There is a long list of medications that can cause bone loss, including steroids, (proton pump inhibitors PPIs), anti-seizure, and certain cancer drugs and immunosuppressants. If you’re on one of these medications, talk to your healthcare provided about your bone health.

Be smart about your weight loss: Healthy, gradual weight loss has significant overall health benefits, but rapid weight loss and extreme dieting can be harmful to bones.

Men are still at risk: Yes, women are at a higher risk, but men absolutely have osteoporosis too, especially if they have certain diseases like diabetes, chronic kidney disease or take high-risk medications like steroids or some prostate cancer drugs.

Osteoporosis is treatable: It is possible to actually improve your bone strength and significantly reduce your risk of fracture with the help of some medications. Talk with your provider about which options would be best for you.

In general, bone density scans are recommended for those 65 or older. But, if you’re over 50 and have had a recent fracture, or have certain risk factors or concerns, consider having a scan earlier. If you don’t yet fit any of those criteria, the best prevention for osteoporosis is a healthy lifestyle with exercise, plenty of vitamin D and calcium, and no smoking or excessive alcohol use.

Angela Roy, PA-C
Bone Health 
Baton Rouge General Physicians - Bone Health Center 
(225) 237-1810