Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that can occur as we age. It is responsible for over a million broken bones each year, and is a major cause of fractures, back pain, spinal problems and loss of independence. Yet most people don’t even know they have it! Here are four things you should know about osteoporosis in honor of Osteoporosis Awareness Month:
- Calcium and vitamin D are essential for bone health. Adult men and women need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily for healthy bones.If you have trouble getting enough calcium from your diet, you may need calcium supplements. You also need vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for healthy adults is up to 1,000 mg, though you may need more in the winter if you live in a place where there’s not a lot of sunlight — or if you’re at risk for low bone density.
- Losing bone density is a normal part of aging. We reach peak bone mass between ages 25 and 30, and then slowly begin to start losing bone mass at age 40. For women, reduced levels of estrogen after menopause accelerate bone density loss. Women lose 1.5 to 2 percent of their bone density per year in the first 10 years after menopause.
- Men get osteoporosis later than women. Men have a 10-year head start over women in terms of their bone health because men have greater bone density going into middle age and their rate of bone density loss is generally more gradual. If men do develop osteoporosis, it’s typically later in life than women. However, once men develop osteoporosis, they are more likely than women to experience a fracture.
- Osteoporosis screening is recommended for older adults. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women without other risk factors have their first bone density screening at age 65. Women who’ve already had a fracture or who have other risk factors, such as rheumatoid arthritis, a history of smoking or drinking, low body weight, or long-term use of corticosteroids should talk to their doctor about having a bone density screening earlier.
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