Guest Column: Be aware of risks for ‘silent disease'

Published 7:25 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007

By Staff
Osteoporosis is called the &#8220silent disease” because bone is lost with no signs. You may not know that you have osteoporosis until a strain, bump or fall causes a bone to break.
Osteoporosis is a very common disease that causes bones to become weak. Bone weakness can lead to fractures of the spine, hip and wrist from simple falls or even a sneeze or a cough. In the United States, 10 million people have osteoporosis. Millions more have a low bone mass (called osteopenia), placing them at risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.
Osteoporosis can strike at any age, but it is most common in older women. Eight percent of the people in the United States with osteoporosis are women. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
Bone is a living tissue. It is mostly made of collagen, a protein that provides a soft framework and calcium phosphate, a mineral that hardens the framework. Our ones are continually replenished throughout life. The body deposits new bone and removes old bone. During childhood, more new bone is formed than old bone removed. The body's bone is the most dense and strong around age 30. After age 30, the body starts removing more old bone than forming new bone.
Many risk factors can lead to bone lose and osteoporosis. Some of the things you cannot change and others you can. Risk Factors you cannot change include:
Gender: women get osteoporosis more often than men.
Age: the older you are, the greater your risk of osteoporosis.
Body size: small, thin woman are at greater risk.
Ethnicity: white and Asian women are at highest risk. Black and Hispanic women have a lower risk.
Family history: osteoporosis tends to run in families.
Other risk factors are: sex hormones, anorexia nervosa, calcium and vitamin D intake, medication use, activity level, smoking and drinking alcohol.
Regina B. Gohagan is director of the area Agency on Aging.

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