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National Osteoporosis Awareness Prevention Month (May)

The month of May has many health and wellness observances. One that is not talked about as much is National Osteoporosis Awareness Prevention Month. Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age and older. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. In 2005, osteoporosis-related fractures were responsible for an estimated $19 billion in costs.

Osteoporosis defined, means porous bone. The disease involves the bone having a low bone mass and the actual bone tissue is deteriorating. People cannot feel their bones getting weaker. They may not know that they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. A person with osteoporosis can break a bone from a minor fall, or in serious cases, from a simple action such as a sneeze.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and broken bones are called "risk factors." Many of these risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Older age
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Being small and thin
  • Smoking
  • Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
  • Certain race/ethnicities such as Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic/Latino although African Americans are also at risk
  • History of broken bones
  • Low sex hormones
    • Low estrogen levels in women, including menopause
    • Missing periods (amenorrhea)
    • Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men
  • Diet
    • Low calcium intake
    • Low vitamin D intake
    • Excessive intake of protein, sodium and caffeine
  • Certain medications such as steroid medications and some anticonvulsants
  • Certain diseases and conditions such as anorexia nervosa and asthma
  • Loss of height (which may indicate a spinal fracture)

Five Steps to Bone Health and Osteoporosis Prevention:

  • Get your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D
  • Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about bone health
  • When appropriate, have a bone density test and take medication

Some information was obtained from the National Osteoporosis Foundation. To learn more about Osteoporosis, please search the NOF website or call 1-(800) 231-4222.

Information provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact her related to the above information, please call 332-4988 or 932-4988.