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Change of Lifestyle, Eating Habits Decreases Risk of Osteoporosis
by Camey

Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones over a period of time due to old age, menopause in women, loss of estrogen levels, a diet that lacks enough calcium, and no exercise. Osteoporosis, often referred to as a silent killer, often goes undetected.

The Interview

The Interview
by Sue Vesely

"After a certain age, women produce less estrogen, which supports the promotion of the absorption of calcium," Mary Cain, a registered nurse with Harvard Community Health Plan, said. "After age 35, women stop making new bones and storing [calcium]. Those who are at risk for osteoporosis are fair-skinned Caucasian and Asian women. Black women are less at risk than Caucasian women. Men are also at risk, although women have more fractures." Cain pointed out a number of factors adding to the risk for women. These include having blonde or red hair, freckles, early menopause, inability to digest milk products, pregnancy in teen years, and curvature of the spine. If a woman living in a northern climate remains indoors for much of the day and does not have enough fluoride in her water, she is adding a risk of developing osteoporosis. Another factor related to the onset of osteoporosis is an individual woman's medical history. For example, removal of the ovaries, use of certain prescription and over the counter drugs, extended bed rest, removal of part of the stomach or small intestine, post menopausal, lost ovarian function before menopause, and certain diseases and conditions such as chronic diarrhea, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, increased the risk of osteoporosis. Lifestyle and eating habits also impact the risk of osteoporosis. Lack of exercise, inadequate calcium, lack of vitamin D, smoking, consumption of alcohol, drinking more than three cups of caffeinated coffee per day, bulimia, anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, some endocrine disorders and physical immobilization, small bones and family genes. "You cannot do anything about being female, your race, or aging, but you can exercise by walking, jogging, dancing, doing aerobics, playing tennis, racquetball, basketball, and lifting weights. Putting stress on your bones promotes absorption and bone growth, which makes bones stronger to a certain degree," Cain said.

When a woman or man ages, the outside of the bone stays the same. Because the inside of the bone becomes less dense, a fall could cause a break in a bone. A bad case of osteoporosis can break a bone just from bending or moving the wrong way. If a woman has osteoporosis, she could easily break a bone or hip if she falls. To prevent falling, use a step stool when reaching items beyond your grasp. All grease and water should be dried as soon as you notice it on the floor. Floors should not be waxed, or a non-slip wax should be used. Non-skid appliqués should be placed in the tub and grab bars installed. Throw rugs should be avoided. Loose wires and cords should be removed or placed beyond traffic patterns. Halls, stairways, and entrances should be well-lit and shoes with good traction should be worn. When sitting or lying down, always rise slowly in order to avoid dizziness. "A woman should exercise, eat properly, have the right amount of calcium, refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol, except in moderation, spend 15 minutes a day or 30-44 a week outdoors and drink decaf coffee or tea because caffeine prevents absorption of calcium and relieves it through urine," Cain said.

Some people have a tendency to absorb too much calcium, either through their daily diet or by taking antacids. "You want to be careful not to take too much calcium because you can get calcium stones or kidney stones. Most antacids contain 200 milligrams of calcium, so you must subtract them from your daily intake of calcium. When using antacids, look for the amount of elemental calcium on the label to be sure you are getting the right amount. Taking more than 2000 mg per day can be harmful," Cain said. If a woman, between 50-64 is postmenopausal and taking estrogen, she needs 1000 mg of calcium. A post menopausal woman not taking estrogen needs 1500 mg," said Cain. This calcium requirement can be filled in a variety of ways. For example, if you drink one cup of milk, eat one ounce of cheese and one cup of yogurt, you will get 1500 mg of calcium. Foods containing calcium are almonds, beans, bread, buttermilk, skimmed, low fat or nonfat dry milk, cheese, figs, yogurt, ice milk or ice cream, kale, lettuce, broccoli, molasses, onion, parsnip, salmon, sardines, shrimp, sweet potato, and tofu.

When a woman reaches age 50 and is close to menopause, the body reduces its production of hormones. With the decrease in estrogen levels, the amount of bone loss due to a lack of calcium increases. "In the six or seven years of menopause, bone loss is more rapid and women can take hormone replacement therapy, such as estrogen, to slow the process. For women with a history of breast cancer that don't take estrogen, there is a new drug on the marked called Fosomax. Women who are past hot flashes are also candidates for the drug. The drug can cause stomach upset or heartburn if not taken with a full glass of water and one must remain upright for a total of 30 minutes," Cain said.

Broken bones can put older patients at risk. Should surgery be required to set the bone, the patient can be at risk during the surgery and then there is a long process of therapy and recuperation. A primary care doctor can perform a bone test or x-ray to see if an individual has osteoporosis. The test, which is not always 100 percent accurate, is usually done when a woman is undecided about hormone replacement therapy. The test results indicate the presence of the disease one year and its absence another. The disease is often detected in many women and men when they seek medical help for a broken bone. Because the disease often goes undetected until medical help is required for a broken bone, osteoporosis is called the silent killer.

Bio: Camey is listed in several Who’s Who publications, in USA and England. Some of her children’s stories have been published in The Advocate, a local newspaper. She is a nonfiction/fiction/song writer as well as a photographer, having won a local newspapers/Industry Magazine Editor’s Choice Award. You can visit her website here.

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