Friday, October 22, 2010

Preventing Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major problem for millions of women and men in the US. The basic cause is lack of adequate vitamin D and calcium. If you are at risk, there are some things that you can do to prevent or slow the development of osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis? 
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose calcium and become thin and brittle.

Causes of Osteoporosis 
You can develop osteoporosis if you are not consuming enough calcium. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, so if you do not have enough vitamin D in your body, you could also be at risk for osteoporosis.

Signs of Osteoporosis 
The first sign that someone has osteoporosis might be when they fall and break a bone. It is often said that you fall and break a bone, but as one of my professors used to say, it is more likely that the reverse happens – you break a bone and fall. Sometimes, pain in the hips could be a sign of osteoporosis.

Testing for Osteoporosis 
A bone density test is used to determine the density or thickness of your bones.

Preventing Osteoporosis 
Eating a diet that is rich in calcium is the first step in preventing osteoporosis. But vitamin D must be present in order for you to absorb the calcium and make it available to build strong bones. Taking a calcium supplement along with vitamin D might delay bone loss in some individuals. Regular exercise can also help to prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis.

Treating Osteoporosis 
Unfortunately, by the time osteoporosis is diagnosed, it may be too late to correct the problem with calcium and vitamin D supplements alone. At this stage, your doctor might prescribe a type of drug, called bisphosphonate, that literally harden the calcium in the bones. However, these drugs, which turn your bones into cement-like structures, can have serious side effects.

Food Sources of Calcium 
The most common food sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products. You can also get calcium from other foods that have been fortified with calcium, including orange juice and some breakfast cereals.

Food Sources of Vitamin D 
Natural sources of vitamin D include fish, fish oil, fish liver oil and mushrooms that have been irradiated. Orange juice and some breakfast cereals that have been fortified with vitamin D are also good sources. However, most of the vitamin D that you get comes from the sun. You can get about 400 IUs of vitamin D from food. In comparison, your body can make 10,000 IUs with just a brief exposure to the sun (10 to 20 minutes of sunlight).

Recommended Intake of Calcium 
The recommended intake for calcium is 800 milligram for adults. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, you might need as much as 1000 to 1200 milligrams of calcium plus vitamin D. To meet this goal, a dietary supplement is usually required.

Recommended Intake of Vitamin D 
The recommended intake for vitamin D is 400 IUs from food sources. This is the amount deemed necessary to prevent rickets or osteomalacia, which are signs of calcium deficiency in children and adults, respectively.

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for higher doses of vitamin D, with some studies suggesting that the recommended intake of 400 IUs is not enough and that people need a much higher dose of this vitamin.

Osteoporosis is a condition that results from lack of adequate calcium and vitamin D in the body. You can prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis by eating foods rich in these two nutrients, and getting regular exposure to the sun. Exercise can also help to prevent osteoporosis.