Thursday, July 1, 2010

How to Prevent Bone Density Loss and Osteoporosis

More than 350,000 hip fractures a year occur in the U.S., according to statistics from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. By 2050 it is estimated the number will rise to 650,000 a year.

Of the 350,000 hip fractures a year, 24% of the patients over 50 will die within a year. 50% will be unable to walk without assistance, and 25% will require long-term nursing care. The current cost of caring for one patient with a hip fracture per year is $26,912; for all hip fracture patients the cost is about $17 billion a year.

This expenditure is more than enough incentive to examine what causes hip fracture and how to prevent it, as sooner rather than later, all who are in their forties and fifties will have to deal with problems associated with bone density loss, which for most people begins at about age 35.

Bone density loss or osteoporosis is caused by a decrease in the function of the bone making cells called osteoblasts, or a change in parathyroid activity from a decrease in the body's calcium absorption, due to less sun exposure, decrease vitamin D synthesis, or insufficient vitamin D intake.

Other causes of bone density loss include excessive smoking, excessive alcohol, early onset of menopause, physical inactivity, and prolong use of certain medications. Relating to medication, you may want to consult your doctor before using corticosteroids, or steroid for arthritis.

The loss of bone density leads to the thinning of bone tissue, decreasing bone strength, and fragile bones. If left untreated, the bones of the affected person will become so fragile it is likely that he or she may have multiple bone fractures severe enough to make them unable to stand or walk. Early treatment is important to replace absorbed old bone with the formation of new bone.

On the formation of bones three cell types are involed. Osteoblasts are cells that build the bone matrix and helps in mineralizing the bone into the second cell type called osteocytes. The third bone cells are called osteoclasts. They absorb bone, and as a result release calcium into the blood.

You may be wondering why do we need osteoclasts whose only function is to degrade bones. Osteoclasts are important in regulating the calcium level in the blood. Calcium provides electrical energy to the nervous system, the muscular system and to the skeletal system. Without calcium all chemical reactions in the body will stop.

When the blood calcium level is low, the parathyroids make parathyroid hormones (PTH) that instruct the osteoclasts to absorb bone for calcium release into the blood. When calcium level is high, the osteoclasts stop absorbing bone until the need to do so arises again. Without the osteoclasts human behavior and movement would be erratic.

Because of the activities of the parathyroids, it is crucial that bones that are absorbed are replaced. Under normal conditions, bones that are absorbed by osteoclasts are replaced at the same rate of formation of new bones by the osteoblasts. When the rate of new bone formation falls below absorption rate, then osteoporosis occurs.

Maintaining a healthy blood calcium level is the key to preventing osteoporosis. Daily, but moderate consumption of calcium-rich foods such as salmon, tofu, sardines, beans, peas, broccoli and low fat dairy products will maintain the calcium level in your blood, and minimize the absorption of bones by parathyroid hormones to maintain your blood calcium level.

Your body also needs vitamin D to enable it absorb calcium. In addition to getting at least 15-20 minutes daily exposure to the sun, eat foods rich in vitamin D such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, eggs, and cod liver oil. Where calcium and vitamin D deficiencies persists, consult your doctor for advise on safe and effective bone supplements.

Physical exercise including weight bearing exercise, walking, jogging, aerobics, swimming and cycling also help to increase bone density. For immobile persons, standing or sitting on a vibrating device that subject the bones to mild vibrations have helped to increase bone density. However, before starting any physical exercise first consult your doctor.

Your bones allow you to stand, walk, hold a cup in your hand without it falling, and do all the other productive and fun things that make up your day. Eating a balanced diet, and doing regular physical exercise will ensure that you maintain the density and strength of your bones, and prevent osteoporosis well into your seventies.

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