With osteoporosis on the rise, experts say many can reduce their risk

WASHINGTON –A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says osteoporosis is on the rise. But experts say there are things people can do when they are young to lessen their risk.

The CDC crunched numbers from a big national health and nutrition  survey and found roughly one in four women over 65 has osteoporosis, or low bone mineral density. It is sometimes called a “brittle bone disease” and can sharply raise the likelihood of fractures.

“I actually don’t think that is much of a surprise,” says Dr. Jason Wexler, an endocrinologist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who explains the number of adults deemed at risk for osteoporosis has been on the rise for some time.

Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis as they age then men, and they develop it earlier thanks to a drop in the hormone estrogen at menopause.

There are a lot of risk factors including family history, genetics and just plain physiology — small boned and thin people are more at risk than large boned and husky ones.

And while we tend to think of osteoporosis as a disease of aging, the fact is bone mass peaks when we are in our 30’s and then begins a gradual decline.

Wexler says it can be “a downward slope from there.” But he says keeping a healthy lifestyle throughout adulthood can help minimize the loss.

“Having a diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D and having a good healthy exercise routine helps you achieve your greatest potential,” he says, adding, “it is important to continue those things so you can maintain bone density over time.”

As far as exercise is concerned, his guidance is to “really keep it simple.”

There are two types of exercise that should be worked into any routine to protect bone health. One is weight-bearing exercise, like simple walking, jogging or stair-climbing. The other is strength training to build up muscles, enhance balance, and cut the likelihood of falls and bone fractures.

That is crucial as we age because fractures can be debilitating  for those with osteoporosis.

“Hip fractures in particular can be devastating with a very high mortality rate, and people often have to spend quite a bit of time or even the rest of their lives in nursing homes,” says Wexler.

He says that is why it so important to take action early.

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