Much like a building’s walls and foundation ensure structural integrity, the human skeletal system serves as a support system that keeps you strong and sturdy. Both buildings and humans age, and with age comes weakening structures. But well-planned blueprints and proper construction keep buildings durable for many years. The same goes for the human skeletal system – taking care of your bones throughout your life helps establish a healthy physical frame.There are certain conditions that can cause bones to become weak and brittle. Osteoporosis, a common bone-weakening condition, causes 8.9 million fractures each year each, per the International Osteoporosis Foundation. While some causes of osteoporosis are uncontrollable, there are a number of things you can do to prevent this ailment.Q. What is osteoporosis?A. Osteoporosis takes place when your bone, which is living tissue, fails to replace old bone fast enough. This causes bone to become fragile and weak, leading to increased risk of fractures. Those most affected by osteoporosis are Asian and white women 60 years and older.Q. What are the symptoms?A. Early stress of bone weakness and deterioration are often not detectable. However, there are some warning signs that may indicate osteoporosis to keep an eye on:* A broken bone that easily occurs* Loss of height over time* Hunched posture
If you suspect osteoporosis or another bone condition, speak with your health care provider.Q. What are the risk factors?A. There are many things that influence your risk of developing osteoporosis. Some risk factors are controllable while others are not.Controllable risk factors:* Inactive lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle means that you’re not getting much physical activity, which puts you at a greater risk for osteoporosis. Regular exercise builds bone strength and helps fight osteoporosis.* Calcium-deficient diet. Long-term lack of calcium intake is conducive to the development of osteoporosis. Bone density relies on calcium consumption, so a person who doesn’t ingest appropriate amounts of calcium typically experiences lessened bone density.* Heavy alcohol consumption. Alcohol can inhibit the body from absorbing enough calcium. This may lead to osteoporosis.* Smoking. Research has shown that tobacco use contributes to the weakening of bones.Uncontrollable risk factors:* Sex. Women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men.* Age. Older folks have a greater risk of osteoporosis.* Genetics. Family history of osteoporosis increases your likelihood of developing the condition. The problem may be even more likely if your family also has a history of hip fractures.* Small body frame. People with a small body frame have less bone mass and, in effect, a better chance of developing osteoporosis.* Race. As previously stated, Asian and white women are most often affected by osteoporosis.Q. What can I do to prevent osteoporosis?A. Making a few positive lifestyle changes can assist in your quest to improve bone health and reduce your chances of osteoporosis. Some bone-healthy choices to make are:* Not smoking* Limiting alcohol intake* Preventing falls by wearing appropriate footwear, using or installing railings in your home, and effectively lighting rooms* Incorporating calcium-rich foods – like bone-in salmon, kale, and green and red peppers – and vitamin D into your diet* Exercising regularly to improve bone strengthUnfortunately, the older you get, the more health issues you face, and osteoporosis is one of these potential health issues. You can better prepare your bones to withstand the effects of aging by making health-conscious choices. A life free of osteoporosis will certainly contribute to your overall happiness and well-being.Usha Kalava, M.B.B.S., is an internal medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System. For more information, please go to mayoclinichealthsystem.org.Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.