Judson Haims: Bone density is different for men and women | AspenTimes.com

Judson Haims: Bone density is different for men and women

Judson Haims
Special to The Aspen Times

Osteoporosis means "porous bone." When our bones are viewed under a microscope, healthy bones appear to look quite similar to a honeycomb. However, bones that are osteoporotic have often experienced a loss in mass and density. When osteoporotic bones are viewed under a microscope, they appear to have larger spaces in the honeycomb and therefore are not as strong.

According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, "Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds." Worldwide, 1 in 10 women older than 60 are affected by osteoporosis. While the prevalence is less in men, morbidity is typically higher particularly when men's testosterone levels are low.

The most common fractures occur in forearms and the humorous. These fractures are most often incurred as people place their arms out to brace for a fall. The next most common fracture occurs in the hip — often the result of a fall.

Risk factors

While we cannot control all the risk factors associated with osteoporosis, whether you will develop osteoporosis may play a part on your diet, exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol, and the medications you use.

Age. The older you get, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.

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Thyroid problems. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. This can occur if your thyroid is overactive or if you take too much thyroid hormone medication to treat an under-active thyroid.

Sex hormones. Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea), low estrogen level (menopause), and low testosterone level in men can bring on osteoporosis.

Body frame size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age.

Keeping bones strong

There is no cure for osteoporosis nor is there a way to completely prevent it. However, there are ways to help avert it and there are steps you take to reduce your risk.

One of the easiest ways you can help lessen the chance of getting osteoporosis is to integrate calcium and vitamin D into your diet, as well exercise.

For people between the ages of 18 and 50, it is recommended that 1,000 milligrams of calcium be consumed daily. As people age, there becomes a disparity between the needed amount of calcium for men and women. As women near 50 years of age, it is recommended that they ingest about 1,200 mg of calcium a day. However, men often do not need this amount until they near 70 years of age.

Given that not everyone consumes adequate calcium and vitamin D in their diet, The Mayo Clinic suggests that the following are good sources of calcium:

Low-fat dairy products

Dark green leafy vegetables

Canned salmon or sardines with bones

Soy products, such as tofu

Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice

When diet and the use of supplements do not provide the body with enough assistance to maintain strong bones, drug therapy is often recommended. Some drugs have proved to aid in slowing bone loss, and others have shown to help rebuild bone. Nonetheless, many of these drugs have quite a bit of controversy surrounding them. You should do your own research and consult your doctor(s) when considering an approach that may be best for you.

Be proactive

As we age, keeping mobile, eating right and incorporating balance exercises such as tai chi may help in lowering the risk of falling.

For those with a family history of osteoporosis concerns, a bone density test may be something to consider. The test most commonly used to test bone density is called a central DXA test. The test is very much like that of having an X-ray: it is not intrusive and it is painless.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt, and Carbondale. His can be reached at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.