Weak Bones may Run in the Family

Bone is live tissue that is made up of protein and calcium.  Bones undergo a perpetual remodel, which means that bone tissue is continually absorbed into the body and replenished with new bone.  If more bone calcium is absorbed than replenished, density is reduced and the bones become weaker with a greater risk for fracture.

Osteoporosis is a health condition defined as "porous bone," which develops when the absorption of bone exceeds replenishment.  Unfortunately for some, heredity can contribute to the chances of developing osteoporosis.  Studies show that children of parents with a history of bone fractures are more likely to have bone fractures themselves.  A genetic risk for osteoporosis can be inherited from either the mother or father's side of the family.

In childhood and young adulthood, adequate nutrition (including calcium and vitamin D) and regular weight-bearing exercises like walking and jogging build strong bones and ensure good bone health.   For adults to maintain good bone health and keep bones strong, it is important to:

  • Eat a nutritious diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • Get regular, physical exercise
  • Limit amounts of alcohol consumed
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes

Nutrition
Low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are foods rich in calcium.  Fortified foods – like cereals and certain juices – can also be good sources. 

In addition to calcium, the bones need vitamin D to be healthy.  This important vitamin helps the bones use the calcium found in foods.  Foods that contain vitamin D include fortified foods like milk and some cereals, canned tuna in oil and salmon.

Here are the recommended daily amounts for calcium and vitamin D from the U. S. Food and Nutrition Board:

  • Women 19 to 50 years of age:  1,000 mg calcium, 600 IU Vitamin D
  • Women 50 - 70:  1,200 mg calcium, 600 IU Vitamin D
  • Men 19 to 70 years of age:  1,000 mg calcium, 600 IU Vitamin D
  • Men and women over 70:  1,200 mg calcium, 800 IU Vitamin D


Exercise
Weight-bearing exercise helps to build strong bones.  To increase and maintain bone strength, try walking, jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, lifting weights, dancing or playing tennis, softball or basketball.

Healthy Lifestyle
Studies first identified cigarette use as a risk factor for osteoporosis over 20 years ago.  Recent studies show a direct connection between cigarette smoking and reduced bone density, but it is difficult to determine whether reduced bone density is due to smoking or to other risk factors like bodyweight or alcohol use.

As alcohol interferes with the absorption of calcium and vitamin D, regular use can raise the risks for developing osteoporosis.  Alcohol also increases levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which can lower calcium reserves in the body.  As with most things in life, moderation is the key – men should have no more than two drinks per day and women should consume no more than one drink daily.

Those people with a family history of osteoporosis are not doomed to bone fracture.  Adequate nutrition, exercise and healthy habits throughout life can lead to the development and maintenance of strong, healthy bones.

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