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If I advised you to activate your osteocytes to help stimulate osteogenesis, would it be Greek to you? What if I told you that osteocytes are bone cells and by activating them you could stimulate osteogenesis resulting in stronger and denser bones, would you care? You should.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans — that’s half of all adults age 50 and older — are at risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis. One in two women and one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime. For women, the incidence is greater than that of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined and a man is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer. Frighteningly, 24% of hip fracture patients 50 and over die within a year of the fracture.

What exactly is osteoporosis? It’s the most common of all bone diseases, resulting in bones becoming weak and more likely to break. Bone is a living tissue discarding old bone and building new bone all the time. As we age, our bones tend to discard more tissue than they put back. This process is called osteopenia and is a normal part of aging. Not everyone who has osteopenia will progress to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a state of osteopenia where you have lost enough bone to be at a greater risk of fracture. The most common fractures due to osteoporosis are of the spine, hip and wrist.

Since osteoporosis doesn’t have any symptoms until a bone breaks, it is important to talk to your doctor about your bone health. A DXA scan — a test that measures bone mineral density (BMD) — yields a measurement called a T-score that compares a person’s bones with a peak bone mass, represented by a healthy 30-year-old of the same sex. A T-score of minus 1 or above is considered normal. A score of minus 2.5 or below indicates osteoporosis. If you’re over 50, you should know your T-score.

Who’s at risk? The NIH says the risk factors that cannot be controlled are age (your risk increases as you get older), gender (women are at greater risk than men), ethnicity (white women and Asian women are most likely to get osteoporosis but Hispanic women and African American women are also at risk) and family history. Alcoholism, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, lung disease and liver or kidney disease are also factors. The good news is there are risk factors you can control.

Begin with diet. Getting adequate calcium and vitamin D is a good start. Go to bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/nutrition/calcium-and-vitamin-d-important-every-age to get the skinny on getting these two essential nutrients into your daily diet. Weight-bearing exercise is essential to strong healthy bones. Walk, stand at work, take the stairs, jump rope (if appropriate), dance, strength train and do heel drops. If you’re unfamiliar with heel drops, go to melioguide.com/osteoporosis-exercises/heel-drop-exercise/ for an excellent tutorial. And don’t get too skinny. Being too thin increases your risk of osteoporosis. It’s not often I advise you to eat more.

Don’t smoke at all or drink alcohol in excess. Smoking cigarettes inhibits the uptake of calcium in your body and, for women, smoking results in earlier menopause that can increase your risk. Simply put, people who drink alcohol are more likely to get osteoporosis. Also, know that certain medicines can increase the risk, so ask your doctor if any of your medicines can contribute to bone loss. And while you are chatting with your physician, discuss if pharmaceutical intervention to stimulate bone growth is appropriate for you.

When you think of your health ... don’t forget your bones.

Cord Prettyman is a certified master personal trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Rehab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, cordprettyman@msn.com. Visit cordprettyman.com for more information.

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