Built for Life

Osteoporosis, which means “porous bones,” causes bones to become weak and brittle. In some cases, a fall or even mild stresses like coughing or bending can cause a fracture. Most fractures occur in the spine, hip or wrist. Although it’s often thought of as a women’s disease, men can have osteoporosis too. It’s never too late or too early to take steps to keep bones strong and healthy.

Calcium is important to help build strong, dense bones early in life and to keep bones healthy later in life. About 99 percent of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth yet calcium also helps blood clot, nerves send messages, and muscles contract. Every day we lose calcium and our bodies cannot produce enough calcium to meet our needs. Calcium supplements are helpful for people who cannot get enough calcium through their diets. Good nutritional sources of calcium are low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and leafy green vegetables. Some products such as juice and breakfast cereal are fortified with additional calcium.

According to OB/GYN Eumena Divino, M.D., FACOG, three simple steps can help you build a foundation for life-long strong bones. “Calcium, Vitamin D and exercise are key,” says Dr. Divino. “Aim for adequate calcium intake – 1500 milligrams per day. Remember that your body can’t absorb more than 500 mg. of calcium at any one time so it’s important to space your calcium intake out during the day, either through supplements or diet.” Dr. Divino also recommends 800 to 1000 units of Vitamin D per day. “Weight bearing exercise is also important,” says Dr. Divino. “Aim for about 35 minutes of the kind of exercise that causes your lower extremities to bear the weight of your upper body.” She suggests walking, running and using a stair machine, or participating in sports like basketball or tennis. “Follow this simple regimen throughout your life and you can help avoid the risk of osteoporosis later in life,” suggests Dr. Divino.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include aging; ethnicity, especially white or Southeast Asian women and African-American and Hispanic men and women; a personal history of fractures after age 40; a parental history of osteoporosis or fractures; low body weight; or using medications that can cause bone loss, especially steroids.

Why Have a Bone Density Test?

“A bone density test is a painless, non-invasive procedure that takes just a few minutes,” says Dr. Divino. “The results will let you know if you are at risk or not. If you are, then you can work with your physician to create a plan of care.”

THE NATIONAL OSTEOPOROSIS FOUNDATION RECOMMENDS A BONE DENSITY TEST IF:

• You’re a woman age 65 or older.

• You’re a postmenopausal woman under age 65 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis.

• You’re a man age 70 or older.

• You’re a man between age 50 and 70 with one or more risk factors for osteoporosis.

• You’re older than age 50 and you’ve experienced a broken bone.

• You’re a postmenopausal woman and you’ve stopped taking estrogen therapy or hormone therapy.

To schedule a bone density test, call The Centers for Women at Raritan Bay Medical Center, with two convenient locations in Old Bridge and Perth Amboy, at 732.324.5270.