Be good to your bones

It is important to take an active role in preventing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone.” Undetected or untreated, osteoporosis can result in bones so brittle and fragile that routine activities result in fractures.

The first symptom of this “silent” disease is often a broken bone. Postmenopausal women are at greatest risk for developing osteoporosis. Caucasian, Asian and thin or small-boned women are also at higher risk. Eighty percent of the 10 million Americans who suffer from osteoporosis are women. Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass and the deterioration of bone tissue.

Half of women older than 50 will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture during their life, and more than 1.5 million bones weakened by osteoporosis break each year. The most common fractures occur in the hip, spine and wrist.

You can help protect yourself from osteoporosis by taking a few steps:

n Get an adequate amount of calcium from a healthy diet or with the aid of a supplement that contains between 1,000 and 1,500 mg of calcium and 400 to 800 IU vitamin D.

n Maintain an active lifestyle. Even activities like walking, dancing and climbing stairs can help maintain strong bones. Weight training or other resistance exercises can also be helpful. Check with your primary care physician prior to beginning any exercise program.

n Avoid lifestyle hazards by limiting the consumption of alcohol and caffeine, as well as avoiding the use of tobacco products.

n Ask your primary care physician about the need for a bone densitometry test that uses an advanced technology called Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA). It is a safe, accurate, and painless way to measure bone density and mineral content of bone.

Mark L. Barba, M.D., is an orthopedic surgeon at Rockford Orthopedic Associates, Ltd., and is an active staff member at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center. For more information about osteoporosis, go to

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