Ask the Experts: Bone health is important

Taking care of your health is important to living a long, active life. Bone health is a crucial part of our overall health. They protect our brain, heart, and other organs from injury and allow us to move. They also store minerals that help keep our bones strong. Over time, our bones can become weak and cause them to break easily. This disease is called osteoporosis.

Jennifer Huisman is a nurse practitioner at IU Health Ball Endocrinology.
Jennifer Huisman is a nurse practitioner at IU Health Ball Endocrinology.

What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects and weakens the bones causing them to break easily — most often, bones in the hip, backbone and wrist. Broken bones, or fractures, can be painful and sometimes need surgery to heal. They can also cause long-lasting health problems.

According to the CDC, Osteoporosis is the most common bone disease and is characterized by weakening of bone tissue, bone structure and strength. In the United States in 2010, an estimated 10.2 million people aged 50 and over had osteoporosis and about 43.3 million more people had low bone mass.

What causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is most common among older women but can affect both men and women at any age. Some other common risk factors include those who:

  • Have a family history of broken bones or osteoporosis

  • Have broken a bone after age 50

  • Had surgery to remove their ovaries before their periods stopped

  • Had early menopause

  • Have calcium and/or vitamin D deficiency

  • Had extended bed rest or were physically inactive

  • Smoke (smokers may absorb less calcium from their diets)

  • Take certain medications, including medicines for arthritis and asthma and some cancer drugs

  • Used certain medicines for a long time

How can you get tested for osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis screening should start at the age of 50 or around the start of menopause. Men should start getting screened at the age of 65. The screening test for Osteoporosis is a DEXA scan (Bone Density). IU Health offers DEXA scans at IU Health Jay in Portland, IU Health Blackford in Hartford City, IU Health Imaging Center in Muncie and at the IU Health Yorktown office. DEXA’s should be checked every 2 years or more frequently if being treated for Osteoporosis.

How is osteoporosis treated?

Typically, treatment for osteoporosis includes medications to improve bone health. There are numerous types of medications that can be taken, but you should not rely on medications alone for treatment. It is also important to make lifestyle changes including exercise, good nutrition, quit smoking and limit alcohol.

How can I keep my bones strong?

There are things can be done at any age to prevent weakened bones. Nutrition is super important, especially getting in the right amount of Calcium and Vitamin D. Some foods rich in these vitamins include dairy products, seafood, fruits and vegetables (particularly dark green vegetables such as green bean, peas and spinach). Exercise is also important, especially regular weight-bearing exercise, such as weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis and dancing.

Talk to your healthcare provider for more information on osteoporosis, treatments and to schedule a screening.

Jennifer Huisman, NP is a Nurse Practitioner at IU Health Ball Endocrinology.  

This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Ask the Experts: Bone health is important