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Gloris Xynos, St. Luke's Hospital

Osteoporosis can be prevented

Osteoporosis, or porous bones, is a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle, leading to fractures usually in the hip, spine or wrist. It's called a silent disease and is often diagnosed when a bone breaks.

Osteoporosis can occur at any age, although it is a major health concern for people age 50 and older. In the U.S., 10 million people 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. More than 80 percent of those affected are women, and women are four times more likely than men to develop this condition.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a woman's risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. A man age 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.

Although many people have osteoporosis, it can be prevented. Understanding the disease and taking steps to build healthy bones while a person is young can literally make or break bones. From childhood through early adulthood, bones grow in length and width, but in middle adulthood, the rate of bone loss exceeds that which is made. Therefore, learning about risk factors and adjusting lifestyle practices, such as diet and exercise, become essential for osteoporosis prevention.

Calcium is vital for bone health. Dairy foods have the highest amounts, though it is found in many other foods. Calcium cannot build bones alone; it works with other nutrients to increase bone strength. These include vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and fluoride. Eating a balanced diet that includes calcium, vitamin D, fruits, vegetables and adequate protein along with limited sodium, caffeine and alcohol is associated with a reduced risk for osteoporosis.

The recommended daily allowance for calcium is 1,000-1,200 mg. Estimate your average calcium intake, and fill the gap with food or a supplement, if necessary. Remember, too much calcium is counterproductive.

Gloris Xynos, RD, LD, MS, CDE is a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator for St. Luke's Hospital. To learn more about nutrition classes, visit our Classes and Events page or call 314-542-4848.

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 11, 2013.

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