Important information for older population
November 2, 2006
By Jerry Vance
Osteoporosis is a gradual debilitating decline of the mineral content of bone that leaves the older person with brittle, weak bones. When this mineral loss reaches the point of fracture, the condition is called osteoporosis. Poor dietary habits, sedentary lifestyles, menopause, hormonal changes in the body and deficient calcium absorption all contribute to this debilitating condition.
On average, bone loss happens at approximately 1 percent per year. After menopause, women’s loss rates increase to 3 percent per year. All the above mentioned conditions contribute to the acceleration of osteoporosis.
There are two types of bone tissue in the body, the compact cortical bone that looks solid and has spaces seen only in a microscope. The forearm and shin bones are mostly cortical bone. The second type of bone is the trabecular bone. To the naked eye it looks like sponge and has spaces filled with bone marrow. This type of bone is found in the easily fractured areas of the body, such as the hip, vertebrae of the spine and the femur or thighbone.
Increasing your dietary intake of calcium per day above the RDA level of 800 milligrams per day can help retard the level of bone loss. Some studies recommend up to 1500 milligrams per day. Another prevention for bone loss is exercise.
Exercise is an easy, inexpensive way to lessen the loss of bone tissue. Research shows that with two weeks of complete bed rest you can lose as much calcium from your bones as one whole year’s worth of aging. Bone loss can increase 50 fold during prolonged bed rest. Standing or walking helps retard bone loss, gravity being the apparent reason. Gravity causes stress on the bones and helps maintain mineral content. Weight bearing exercise such as walking, running, bicycling, etc., can help reduce the rate of bone loss. Tests done at Tufts University show women who ran even short distances had enhanced bone in areas that were not weight bearing, such as the forearms. The study concluded that weight-bearing exercise has a whole-body effect on bone.
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They also found that exercise may help foster the body’s calcium absorption. The blood of exercising women had more vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption, more growth hormone to make bones stronger and exercising women ate more carbohydrates which also aid in calcium absorption. Weight-bearing exercise combined with good dietary habits can help decrease your chances of osteoporosis.
• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.