Bones Alive

Can you believe this week is Halloween and the end of October? My family doesn’t really participate in the whole Halloween scene. Just to be honest, I think it’s kind of creepy! However, I did get my daughter a costume, and my husband and I took her to a Halloween Alternative party at our church. It was very cute.

Anyways, whether you have chosen to participate in Halloween or not, you have been given your very own costume. Underneath your skin, your layers of muscle and fat, tendons and ligaments you will find your very own skeleton.

Your skeleton is actually a very important part of your body. In fact it’s the basis of which all your other infrastructures are built around. Your skeleton is made up of 206 bones and provides protection to many of your vital organs including your heart, lungs, and brain.

Bones have a very important job to do. Not only do they protect our body’s organs, but they also store minerals, one of which is calcium. Did you know that the bone marrow actually makes blood cells for your body? According to Minnesota State University.edu, “An average of 2.6 million red blood cells are produced each second by the bone marrow to replace those worn out and destroyed by the liver.” Wow, that’s a lot of blood!

But unfortunately, where there’s good, there’s also bad. And your body’s skeleton is not safe from disease that attacks your precious bones. Here’s a short list of some bone diseases from MedlinePlus.com:
•Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and more likely to break
•Osteogenesis imperfecta makes your bones brittle
•Paget’s disease of bone makes them weak
•Bone disease can make bones easy to break
•Bones can also develop cancer
•Other bone diseases are caused by poor nutrition,genetic factors or problems with the rate of bone growth or rebuilding

And from that list I think most of us are most familiar with osteoporosis. Right? Most people understand osteoporosis as thin bones, probably because we tend to talk about “the poor little old lady down the street who fell and broke her hip because she had brittle bones.” Sounds about right.

So, that leaves the question, who’s at risk and what are the risk factors of getting osteoporosis? Here’s what the National Osteoporosis Foundation website, NOF.org states:
•Eighty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are women
•Twenty percent of those affected by osteoporosis are men
One in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her/his remaining lifetime.
Osteoporosis is responsible for more than 1.5 million fractures annually, including:
•over 300,000 hip fractures; and approximately
•700,000 vertebral fractures;
•250,000 wrist fractures; and
•300,000 fractures at other sites.

Hip fracture risk is increasing most rapidly among Hispanic women.

Women with a hip fracture are at a four-fold greater risk of a second one, and the risk factors are similar to those for the first hip fracture.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. The risk factors include:
•Personal history of fracture after age 50
•Current low bone mass
•History of fracture in a 1° relative
•Being female
•Being thin and/or having a small frame
•Advanced age
•A family history of osteoporosis
•Estrogen deficiency as a result of menopause, especially early or surgically induced
•Abnormal absence of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
•Anorexia nervosa
•Low lifetime calcium intake
•Vitamin D deficiency
•Use of certain medications (corticosteroids, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants and others)
•Presence of certain chronic medical conditions
•Low testosterone levels in men
•An inactive lifestyle
•Current cigarette smoking
•Excessive use of alcohol
•Being Caucasian or Asian, although African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at significant risk as well

Women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause, making them more susceptible to osteoporosis.

Rather sobering information, I’d say. I think that puts just about all of us (women especially) at risk. But there’s hope. You can do some simple things to help prevent osteoporosis, and this is what NOF.org says about prevention.

“By about age 20, the average woman has acquired 98 percent of her skeletal mass. Building strong bones during childhood and adolescence can be the best defense against developing osteoporosis later. There are five steps, which together can optimize bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. They are:
•A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
•Weight-bearing and resistance-training exercises
•A healthy lifestyle with no smoking or excessive alcohol intake
•Talking to one’s healthcare professional about bone health
•Bone density testing and medication when appropriate”

Don’t let the threat of osteoporosis scare you. Take control and build healthier, stronger bones, or else the end results could be very frightening!