Each May, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) observes National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month aimed at bringing awareness and education about osteoporosis, which affects approximately 10 million Americans who are living with the disease. The NOF is calling on all Americans to get educated about osteoporosis and understand their risk factors, learn how to prevent the disease and take action.
So what is osteoporosis? It is a common disease that weakens bones and, as bones weaken, the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures increases. It often progresses without symptoms or pain and a diagnosis usually occurs only after a painful fracture. A fracture is a break in a bone and, if you have osteoporosis, your bones become thin, lose structure and become fragile. So fragile, in fact, that performing a daily activity like lifting a bag of groceries could cause a fracture or a collapsed vertebra in your back.
Osteoporosis is considered a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, because up to 90 percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and age 20 in boys, which makes youth the best time to build strong bones to last a lifetime. When most people think about staying healthy, they probably think about making lifestyle changes to prevent cancer and heart disease and do not consider the importance of keeping their bones healthy.
To keep the 206 bones in our bodies healthy and strong, it is important to get enough calcium, vitamin D and weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activity. Additionally, everyone should talk with their doctor about risk factors, osteoporosis prevention and when to get a bone density test. The reasons why a person gets osteoporosis can vary, but include:
- A family history of broken bones
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Taking certain medicines and having certain medical conditions
To learn more about osteoporosis and prevention, please visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation website, www.nof.org .