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Strong, Healthy Bones Are Essential for Osteoporosis Prevention

Primary Care Physicians Encourage Patients to Take Care of their Bones Early in Life

DAYTON, Ohio (June 28, 2011) – Osteoporosis is something that most people, especially women, don’t think about until they’re older adults. But as physical activity increases during the summer months due to traveling, household and outdoor activities, the risk of falls and fractures increases. A recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that inactivity steadily increases as people get older, which can lead to bone and muscle loss, increasing a person’s risk of falling.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 10 million Americans currently suffer from osteoporosis and about half of all women will experience a fracture in their lifetime. The disease that causes thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time is most commonly found in post-menopausal females—women ages 65 and older. However, there are steps women can take early in life to keep their bones healthy and strong.

“While osteoporosis is something that is usually experienced later in life, people, especially women, need to be aware of it when they’re young,” said Dr. Molly Middleton of Beavercreek Family Medicine. “By making good lifestyle choices that include a healthy diet and exercise, younger women can help prevent or reduce their chances of getting osteoporosis.”

In terms of diet, calcium and usable forms of vitamin D are essential. Even though dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, most women don’t consume the recommended amount of calcium each day. Women also need an activated form of vitamin D to help with calcium absorption which makes bones stronger. Great sources of natural vitamin D are fish and dairy products that are fortified with the vitamin. Exposure to sunlight activates vitamin D, and because of limited sun exposure in the Midwest, doctors have found many residents don’t get the required amount of activated vitamin D. The summer months are a great time for Midwesterners to take advantage of the sun and soak up rays, but it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen to block the harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer.

Over-the-counter dietary supplements are a good way to make sure the daily nutritional needs are met to help stave off osteoporosis. Exercise is also important to bone health, particularly weight bearing activities, such as walking, climbing and swimming.

“Women generally reach their peak bone mass in their 20s and it declines from there,” said Middleton. “Women should get into the habit of having yearly physicals when they’re young and healthy to regularly address any risk factors that could lead to the development of osteoporosis.”

A number of factors can also increase a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis, including smoking and alcoholism, other medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or thyroid diseases, the use of medications that might have bone-deteriorating side effects. Making healthy choices and being aware of potential risk factors early in life are key to osteoporosis prevention.

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