Shocking Facts About Osteoporosis…and What Every Teen Girl Should Know

How many teens do you know who worry about osteoporosis? This is a disease that concerns all of us. From my personal experience and journey, I would like to share what shocking facts I discovered about osteoporosis. A promising young athlete at the tender age of 16, I was diagnosed with osteopenia (the early stage of osteoporosis). Unfortunately, like so many others, I believed it to be a disease that only affected menopausal women.

Deadly Disease
Your bones weaken and become brittle, making them prone to fracture. Common areas such as hips, spine, and wrists are the most affected and can easily break while hugging a person, sneezing, bumping into furniture, or suddenly stepping off a curb. 

“Silent Killer”
There are no warning signs in the initial stages, people find out they have osteoporosis when a bone breaks unexpectedly. Frequently people believe that the fall caused the snap when in reality, it is the opposite; the bone was so frail it broke, causing the person to fall. 

Youth is the best time to “invest” in bone health

Ninety percent of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys
Many young women believe that thin is sexy and strive to lose weight by dieting and engaging in intense exercise routines. In other words, they exercise too much and eat too little. That was my story. Unfortunately, traces of bone deterioration can be seen after only a few months of strict dieting. In most cases, osteoporosis affects them long after stopping their diets and maintaining their average body weight. As a result, many young women can suffer from weak bones for the rest of their lives.

The higher your bone mass density is as a young adult, the less likely you will develop osteoporosis. 
One out of two women over fifty suffer from osteoporosis. The sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone around menopause accelerates bone loss, which continues throughout the postmenopausal years.

Caucasian and Asian women are more predisposed to get it. Other risk factors include a thin frame, smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. Depression is also suggested as a risk factor, corticosteroid use, and certain medical conditions.

Men are not exempt; one in four men is affected. 
While there are no symptoms at first, once the skeleton has weakened, you may experience

  • Back and neck pain, caused by a fractured or collapsed vertebra
  • Loss of height over time
  • Stooped posture
  • A bone fracture that occurs unexpectedly 

Wake-up call

  • More than 2 million fractures annually happen because of osteoporosis.
  • 80 percent of older Americans who suffer bone breaks are not tested or treated for osteoporosis.
  • Testing for osteoporosis is only recommended for women over 65, men over 70.
  • 16% of people over fifty who have a diagnosed osteoporosis fracture will suffer a premature death within five to ten years following the fracture, or 1,100 every month.
  • An individual loses approximately 1 year’s worth of bone mass in only one week of bed confinement.

Bone is alive
The bones continuously break down and repair themselves by responding to the pull of muscles and gravity. Osteoporosis develops when the creation of new bone does not keep up with the removal of old bone.

Exercise, proper nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle are keys to preventing and managing the disease.

Stimulate Bone Osteogenesis
The most effective activities to rebuild bone mass density are resistance exercises and weight-bearing

Resistance exercises 

Resistance and strength training that include lifting free weights and weight machines have been scientifically proven to be best for rebuilding bone mass. However, the results are site-specific and depend on the intensity of the exercises and quantified by the weight you lift. 

A regime of high-load, low-repetitions must be adopted. For example, to strengthen the hip and the spine, the exercises’ intensity requires a maximum weight load – of 2 to 3 sets – 8 to 10 repetitions – for 1-year minimum – 3 times/week – 45 to 70 minutes per session. 

Weight-bearing exercises

The elderly unable to perform reinforcement exercises might need to choose weight-bearing activities that force them to work against gravity, such as walking, hiking, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing.

However, at best, these activities can help you prevent further bone deterioration but not substantially rebuild BMD.

Take-away
Osteoporosis is a deadly disease. To rebuild bone density, you must incorporate resistance training three times per week. The percentage of BMD improvement is directly related to the intensity of the load. Therefore, the sooner you start, the better you will be.

Building muscular strength gives you better balance and agility, making you less likely to fall, serving as insurance. However, if you do fall, it will reduce fracture risk. But if you break a bone, the injury will heal faster because the body has memory and wants to get back to the healthy state it once knew in growing more robust bones. 

What to watch for when exercising with osteoporosis
People with osteoporosis need to 

  • Protect the spine by moving correctly during exercise and daily activities 
  • Be ergonomically supported 
  • Avoid bending over from the waist
  • Avoid twisting motions of the trunk. For this reason, yoga may not be the safest exercise modality for people suffering from osteoporosis. 
  • Do not carry too heavy packages or reach for things on a high shelf at arm’s length.

Supplements
When working out, it is critical to supply your body with enough nutrients to build muscle. Therefore you must not exercise on an empty stomach. Eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. 

Conclusion
I ticked all the boxes for advanced osteoporosis as a postmenopausal woman: I adhered to extreme dieting and exercise my whole life. Also, I’m a Caucasian athlete diagnosed with osteopenia in my teens. However, today I’m diagnosed with the mildest case of osteopenia. 

What happened?
Thirteen years ago, I started weightlifting under the mentoring of Dr Fitness USA. It saved my life. I am more robust than ever before; I enjoy perfect health and vibrancy. I am a testament to the power of strength training for women’s health.

Start strength training today and get your teens involved. Waiting until you are 65 to address osteoporosis is too late. Dare to live young.

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