SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: Osteoporosis stealthy, dangerous

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Osteoporosis is a common disease that causes a porous and deteriorated structure of the bone joint and tissue. This silent, destructive condition is estimated to affect 10 million Americans of all sexes, ethnicities and ages.

Eight million of those Americans are women.

Weakened bones can increase the risk of fractures, falls and injury. Osteoporosis is known to affect any bone structure, but most commonly hinders the wrist, hip and spine.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a "major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans or 55 percent of the people 50 years of age and older."

This equates to approximately one in every two women and one in every four men experiencing an osteoporotic fracture after age 50.

People who are on the verge of getting osteoporotic bones are known to have osteopenia, or low bone density.

Your doctor or local health-care facility should offer a bone density test where you receive a "T-Score." T-Score results between -1.0 through -2.5 means that your bones have low density.

Genetics or disease could be the cause of low density.

Generally, a health care provider will take a second test to see if it is actual bone loss or if you naturally have low bone density.

Protecting your bones during your youth years are vital for healthy bone maintenance.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 85-90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in females and 20 in males.

Optimal bone health is achieved through consuming appropriate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, completing a strength training routine and moderating alcohol, cigarette and caffeine consumption.

Since most people can not recognize or "feel" weak bones it is important to pay attention to signs and symptoms. Common risk factors include: family history, amenorrhea, inactive lifestyle, and small and thin body frame, history of broken bones and low production of estrogen or testosterone.

Certain diseases and medications can trigger osteoporosis, too: anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal diseases, as well as steroids, thyroid medications and anticonvulsants, which have been known to increase low bone density.

Bones are a tissue that are constantly "remodeling". This process basically breaks down the old bone and builds new bone. This process slows as people age. Brittle, weak bones may result if the bone loss goes undetected and a person doesn't take steps to fight the problem.

Elder adults on Medicare can get reimbursed for a bone density test biannually.

Osteoporosis and the risk of gaining fractures is equivalent to hypertension and high cholesterol leading to heart disease: It is a serious bone ailment that is easily ignored.

Questions, concerns, diagnosis and bone tests can be directed to your local health-care facility.

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience in India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is a programs coordinator at the YMCA where she trains, instructs fitness classes and assists in marketing projects. She welcomes questions and comments and can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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