WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OSTEOPOROSIS & OSTEOPENIA?Osteoporosis – is a generalized disorder where bone tissue is reduced in quantity and quality. Bones are therefore easily susceptible to breaking. It is usually defined by the consequences of having weak bones (increased risk of fracture, pain, deformity, etc.), not necessarily the symptoms2.
Osteopenia – is a precursor to osteoporosis, meaning there is some loss in bone density and strength, but not enough to classify as full-blown osteoporosis2.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS & HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE OSTEOPOROSIS?
- Advancing age
- Chronic diseases (such as Diabetes, AIDS, Hyperthyroidism etc.) that are associated with osteoporosis3
A BMD TEST WILL:
- Measure bone density
- Detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs
- Help reduce the chance of future fracture
- Monitor the effectiveness of treatments for osteoporosis
INTERPRETING YOUR BONE DENSITY RESULTS & DEXA SCANSThe most common type of BMD test is the DEXA Scan (Dual X-Ray Absorptiometry). It measures the amount of minerals specific to each area, exposes the patient to less radiation than some other tests, can help predict risk of bone fracture, and is very accurate2. DEXA uses two different X-ray beams to estimate bone density in the hip and spine. The amounts of each X-ray beam that are blocked by bone and soft tissue are then compared to each other in terms of how much of the beam passes through; bones with higher mineral density do not allow as much of the beam through1.
EXERCISE & BONE DENSITY: THE BENEFIT OF TRAININGExercise seems to be the key to reducing most health problems. Osteoporosis is a condition that can be prevented and reversed by weight bearing exercise. Proper exercise can not only slow bone loss, but can also add new bone. Small gains in bone mineral can result in large improvements in bone strength because new bone formation is often localized to bone surfaces where mechanical strains (stresses) are greatest4.
Exercise, especially resistance exercise, allows calcium and magnesium to be better absorbed by bone, since bone responds to external mechanical stress2. If you never stress the bones (sedentary lifestyle is the main factor for most people), the body assumes that there is no need to hold on to bone minerals, and bones become weak. The type, frequency, mode and length of exercise sessions are critical to making a real difference with respect to combating osteoporosis. Losing weight in a healthy manner is also important, especially with women; dropping a lot of weight too quickly or through unsafe methods can actually increase the risk of osteoporosis and other health problems.
NUTRITION AND BONE HEALTHAn adequate supply of both calcium and vitamin D as children and adolescents is essential to support healthy bone growth, and this importance continues as adults, where increasing intake of these nutrients can reduce bone loss and preserve bone mass. Since both the body's calcium absorption capabilities as well as its ability to activate vitamin D decline with age, it becomes critical that an individual’s diet is providing more than enough of these nutrients to maintain good health and take a proactive measure to avoid osteoporosis.
There are many calcium sources that can be incorporated into a daily diet to ensure individuals are meeting their adequate intake, dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese are the best, most direct and abundant sources of calcium. However, there are also nonmilk sources such as tofu, almonds, sesame seeds, bok choy, kale, parsnips, watercress and broccoli, which can be incorporated into a balanced diet and provide a significant amount of calcium per serving as well.
CONCLUSIONScientific research exemplifies how important exercise and nutrition are to bone health. Making healthy lifestyle choices is always a good idea, regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with this condition. Prevention is the key - and it is never too early to start.
Working with a qualified professional who knows about osteoporosis, how to train someone with it, and how to prevent bone loss is also extremely important in order to derive maximum benefit and avoid future complications.
1. Bone Mineral Density (2007). BC Health Guide.
2. Graci S, DeMarco C, Rao L. (2006). The Bone Building Solution. John Wiley and Sons: Canada.
3. Osteoporosis Education a Priority in New York State (2004). New York State, Department of Health
4. Turner CH and Robling AG. (2005). Exercises for Improving Bone Strength. Journal of Sports Medicine. 39;188-189.