Osteoporosis is known as the 'silent' disease

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 9/22/99.

Osteoporosis and making people more aware of the disease was the community project selected by the Rural Health School (RHS) students

RHS students working at the Paynesville Area Health Care System met with a high school health class Tuesday morning (Sept. 14) and after lunch with a small group at the Paynesville Area Center to explain osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that gradually weakens bones, which can lead to height loss, broken bones, and a deformed backbone.

The RHS students stressed preventive measures young people can take to ward off osteoporosis as they become older. The students have been working and learning at the Paynesville Area Health Care System since May.

RHS students leading the discussion were: Leann Kirby, Terry Johnson, J.D. Anderson, and Dan Lillquist.

"Your bone growth and bone mass peaks by the time a person reaches the age of 35," J.D. Anderson told the students. "By drinking milk and eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can help prevent health problems later in life."

Anderson went on to explain to the group at the Paynesville Area Center that after the age of 40, your body uses more calcium than it absorbs. "The disease starts when you are younger. Osteoporosis is a "silent" disease. You don't see the results until you are older." Anderson explained that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. One in two women and one in eight men over 50 will have a bone break caused by a break down in bone mass from loss of calcium in their body.

"Bigger is better when it comes to osteoporosis," Anderson said. "Bigger people can build stronger bones because their body carries more weight. Being physically active also helps build strong bone mass."

"As we grow older and reach menopause, our body is less able to stay ahead of the bone loss and our bones become weak and brittle. Thus, fractures of hips, vertebrae, and wrists will occur," Anderson added. These breaks can occur at any time, caused by something as minor as coughing or lifting a bag of groceries.

Anderson explained people with increased risk factors for osteoporosis include: the elderly; females after menopause; small, thin people; Asians and caucasians; families with a history of osteoporosis; people with a medical history of hyper-thyrodisium (hormone levels), liver disease, and broken bones. The RHS students urged people over 50 to ask their family physician osteoporosis and about having a bone density test. The need for the test varies with the patient. Bone density tests are helpful in diagnosing osteoporosis, particularly in the early stages before broken bones occur. When tests are repeated over time, they can also help doctors track the rate of bone loss in a person.

Controllable risk factors which help prevent osteoporosis include: use of sex hormones to control the loss of estrogen in women and testosterone in men; take an adequate calcium intake; eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D; exercise to increase bone strength, and maintain balance; don't smoke as smoking decreases calcium absorption; heavy use of alcohol leads to bone loss and fractures; and caffeine decreases bone density in people with low calcium intake.

Our bodies need calcium to keep our bones strong. The best source of calcium is food. If you can't get enough from food, supplements will help.

Are you getting enough calcium? The daily calcium needs for people 11 to 24 years old is 1,200 to 1,500 milligrams (mg): 25 to menopause; 1,000 mg; after menopause, not on estrogen, 1,500 mg; on estrogen, 1,000 mg; over 65 years old, 1,500 mg.

One cup of low fat milk contains 297 mg of calcium; low-fat yogurt, 300 mg per cup; ice cream 176 mg per cup; American cheese, 174 mg per cup; sardines, 371 mg per three ounces; macaroni and cheese, 362 mg per cup; broccoli, 72 mg per spear; wheat bread, 32 mg per slice.

Return to Archives