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How Are Your Bones?

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No matter how old you are, you should be concerned with your bones. Osteoporosis, which means "porous bones," is a medical condition affecting over 10 million Americans and is characterized by accelerated bone loss, leading to low bone mass and low bone density. Our bones increase in density from birth until about the age of 30. Beginning at age 30 we gradually lose bone density. We cannot increase bone density after age 30.

Although most common among the elderly, Osteoporosis can happen at any age and affect any bone in the body. The most common sites are hips, vertebrae, and wrists, which are most frequently broken with falls. An elderly person who breaks a hip in a fall lives an average of only one year after the fall. 

The more dense our bones are at age 30, the less chance of developing Osteoporosis as bone density gradually decreases after 30. Therefore it is very important that we make sure our children develop strong bones at an early age. Bones grow strong by a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, plenty of sunshine exposure which is needed to make vitamin D that helps in dietary calcium absorption, and lots of exercise. In our computer and internet age our children seem to spend less time on their own running around outside in the sun. We need to be more pro-active in promoting outdoor activity, and make sure our children are eating and drinking calcium rich food.

Once we are past age 30, we must make sure that our natural bone density loss is as slow as possible. Risk factors that can contribute to rapid bone loss and Osteoporosis include smoking, inactivity (especially a lack of weight-bearing exercise), excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, lack of sufficient dietary calcium and vitamin D, lack of sunlight exposure, a family history of Osteoporosis, and advanced age. Women are four times more likely than men to get Osteoporosis, but men are still susceptible if not careful. All these risk factors are easily controlled except of course age and family history. But, if we take care of the controllable risk factors, then age and family history are less of a concern.

Our Maine winter, so far, has been fairly mild, and a long walk or run on a sunny, winter day can be very pleasant and very good for our bones. At the Y the treadmill is the best cardio exercise for maintaining bone strength, and make sure you use the Y Wellness Center for strength training. All the many exercise classes are an excellent way to exercise for bone strength, and members of all ages and fitness levels can find an appropriate class, including dance, boot camp, Absolute Physique, and re-YOUTH-enate.

When thinking about your goals for the new year and the rest of your life, make sure you consider the health of your bones. Bone health is just another reason to lead a healthy lifestyle.