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Building Your Bone Bank

A Topic For All Ages

By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT

How's your bone bank account looking these days?  

My what?  

You know, your bone bank account — the amount of bone your body has built for when you start withdrawing later. You shouldn’t wait until you're ready to withdraw to start saving. 

Our bones are living tissue, with cells constantly adding to and withdrawing from our bone structure or bone bank account.  

Our most crucial bone-building occurs in adolescence. While those legs are growing out the ends of pant legs, the bones are also gaining density.  

By our mid-20s, we've typically reached our peak bone mass. In our 30s and 40s bone loss to bone gain plateaus, then by our 50s and 60s the rate of withdrawal picks up speed and our bones become less dense. 

Bone Density Loss is a Part of Aging, But There's Hope  

Just like you might apply SPF 50 before a sunny day on the water or avoid gas station sushi before a long road trip, making good choices now can affect your health and happiness later.  

If you are under 30, build bone density while you can so you start with a strong base. 

Everyone else can still build bone, but you will be countering a faster rate of loss than when you were younger. 

 

Why does it matter? 

Because denser bones don't break as easily. And the older you are, the more debilitating a fracture can become to your life. Don’t realize this too late.

 

A Bone Bank Account Has Been Opened in Your Name 

Fixed risk factors play a large part in the starting point of your bone bank. These include:

Age: Peak bone mass is achieved by the mid 20's. After that, bone withdrawal increases and eventually becomes greater than bone deposit. 

Gender: Women are at higher risk than men, but don’t underestimate the potential for high bone loss in older men.

Family History of Osteoporosis: Either too much bone loss, poor bone building, or both leads to osteoporosis, a critically low level of bone density that causes bones to break easily. 

Race/Ethnicity: Caucasian and Asian populations show more prevalence of osteoporosis than other groups. 

Estrogen Loss: Females with a reduction in estrogen from menopause, hysterectomy, estrogen deficiency or amenorrhea (lack of menstrual period), will experience bone loss.

Knowing your level of risk for developing osteoporosis can help you decide how much focus to put on the choices you CAN make.

Take That, Bone Density 

Consider how you might improve your bone-building capability or slow bone loss by making changes to one or more of the following: 

  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking can lead to lower bone density. 
  • Alcohol: High intake of alcohol (> 2 drinks per day) has been linked to higher rates of bone loss.
  • Low Body Weight Per Height: Body Mass Index of
  • Poor Nutrition: Your best nutrients come from food, like dairy products, fatty fish and vegetables.
  • Calcium and vitamin D deficit: These nutrients are necessary to build bone and slow losses. Sunlight on the skin is great source of vitamin D, but supplements are sometimes necessary during the northern U.S. winters. 
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: You don't need to be an athlete; sit for fewer hours for better bone health. But if you choose to exercise, weight-bearing is best, such as walking or jogging.  

 

Medical Conditions and Medications May Play a Role  

  • Some medical conditions or medications are associated with inhibiting bone growth or accelerating bone loss. Talk with your doctor about your risks and how you can maximize your bone health with these health conditions.
  • Medical Conditions: hyperthyroidism, chronic lung disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic renal disease, hyperparathyroidism, Cushing's disease, multiple sclerosis, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and rheumatoid arthritis. 

 

Medications: oral glucocorticoids (steroids), cancer treatments (radiation, chemotherapy), thyroid medicine, antiepileptic medications, immunosuppressive agents, and gonadal hormone suppression. 

Where Do You Stand?

Talk with your doctor about your risks, whether testing is appropriate, and when it is time to take medications.  

     Know Your Risks (English) 

     Know Your Risks (Spanish)

Share this information with the young people in your life through the links at the top of the page. 

Beth Jennings, PT, MPT is a freelance writer and a physical therapist.

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

References:

International Osteoporosis Foundation. About Osteoporosis. Accessed 2021 Dec 6.  https://www.osteoporosis.foundation/health-professionals/about-osteoporosis

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases, National Resource Center. The Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means To You. Last Reviewed 2019 Dec. Accessed on 2021 Dec 5. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/SGR/surgeon-generals-report#r

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