The quality of our skeletal structure has a direct effect on our appearance, vitality, and energy level. The better we stand and move around, the more youthful we will look and feel.
WHAT ARE BONES MADE OF?
Our bones are actually living tissue that constantly changes throughout our lifetime. The bone in our bodies is a combination of collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework, and calcium phosphate, a mineral that adds strength and hardensthe framework.
Throughout our lifetime old bone is removed (resorption), and new bone is added to the skeleton (formation). Generally, bone formation outpaces resorption until our peak bone mass is reached around age 30. After that, bone resorption slowly begins to exceed bone formation. In some cases this reversal is what leads to osteoporosis.
WHAT DOES OSTEOPOROSIS DO?
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily, and it especially affects bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. It’s often called a “silent disease” because you may not notice any change until you break a bone.
The interior of your bones looks something like a honeycomb. With osteoporosis, the spaces in the honeycomb grow larger, and the bone forming the honeycomb gets smaller. Meanwhile, the outer shell of your bones gets thinner, and this combination of interior and exterior changes leads to weaker bones that are more prone to breaking easily.
The risk of osteoporosis grows as you get older. At the time of menopause, women may lose bone quickly for several years. In men, the loss of bone mass is slower, but by age 65 to 70, men and women are losing bone at the same rate.
HOW DO I PREVENT IT?
Most people believe that thinning bones are inevitable as we age, but recent research challenges this idea. Actually, there are things you can do atany age to prevent weakened bones. These include eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. And a study at the University of Toronto shows that aerobic exercise such as weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, and tennis improved the amount of calcium in the upper thighs and upper body, two areas prone to fractures. Even dancing helps, so get off the couch, turn up the music, and cut a rug!