Michael L Gross, MD  
Male, 64
Hackensack,Westwood, NJ

Specialties: orthopedic surgery, sports medicine

Interests: Orthopedics, Knee and Shoulder Arthroscopy
Active Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
Hackensack, NJ
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Nine Steps to strong healthy Bones

May 15, 2009 - 6 comments





healthy bones


fragility fractures


sports medicine

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. In the U.S. today, 10 million individuals are estimated to already have the disease and almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis. While osteoporosis is often thought of as an older person's disease, it can strike at any age.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break.  If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fragility fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine, and wrist.  The US Surgeon General has identified osteoporosis and fragility fractures as major public health problems.

Osteoporosis has no symptoms. You notice no pain or change as the bone becomes thinner, although the risk of breaking a bone increases as the bone becomes less dense.  A bone mineral density (BMD) test is usually done to see whether you have osteoporosis. The most accurate test of BMD is dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), although there are other methods. DEXA is a form of X-ray that can detect as little as 2% of bone loss per year. A standard X-ray is not useful in diagnosing osteoporosis because it is not sensitive enough to detect small amounts of bone loss or minor changes in bone density.

Many men don't think they are at risk for osteoporosis, since these are commonly considered to be conditions of older women. Because men have a higher peak bone mineral density than women at middle age, osteoporosis tends to happen at an older age in men. But aside from the hormonal change in women as they go through menopause, the risk factors are risks for men as well as women. Men are also at risk if they have low levels of the hormone testosterone.

Your bones don't reach their greatest density until you are about 30 years old, so for children and people younger than 30, anything that helps increase bone density will have long-term benefits. If you're older than 30, it's still not too late to make these lifestyle changes. A balanced diet and regular exercise will help slow the loss of bone density, delay osteopenia and osteoporosis, and delay or prevent osteoporosis.

1.  Maximize calcium intake.  Most recommendations are for 1000 milligrams of calcium per day for both men and women.  According to the NIH, after age 50, both men and women should increase their intake to 1200 milligrams.  Dairy products contain calcium, so do broccoli, almonds, and sardines.  Calcium supplements are also useful.  Discuss these with your doctor or pharmacist before starting.

2.  Increase Vitamin D intake.  Once calcium is ingested, vitamin D is essential to help your body absorb it and utilize it.  For both men and women, the recommended daily intake of vitamin D is between 400 and 800 international units.  This can usually be met with a balanced diet.  However supplements are available.

3.  Exercise Regularly.  To improve and maintain bone density a combination of regular low impact, weight bearing exercise and resistance exercises works best.  Weight bearing exercise includes walking, jogging and even dancing.  If you are fit, and your doctor approves, jogging, tennis, basketball, or jumping rope are all weight bearing exercises, but are not low impact.  Low impact activities include walking, elliptical or stepper routines, and cycling.  Resistance exercises use weights or elastic bands to increase the work as you move against gravity.  Body weight also provides resistance, so push-ups, pull-ups, and toe raises can be a good place to start.  Be sure to start slowly, and increase slowly to avoid injury.  A functional exercise program that increases balance and agility is your

4.  Play Outside.  Exposure to sunlight on the skin allows the body to manufacture vitamin D3 from cholesterol.  As little as 15 minutes a day of moderate sunlight is enough to provide enough vitamin D to meet the most people’s needs.  Humans make 90 percent of our vitamin D naturally from sunlight exposure to our skin – specifically, from ultraviolet B exposure to the skin, which naturally initiates the conversion of cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D3.  It is not possible for the body to over produce Vitamin D in this manner. Excess production is metabolized away.  However, exposure to ultraviolet rays to the point of burning is not advised.  If one regularly avoids sunlight exposure, it may be necessary to supplement with at least 5,000 units (IU) of vitamin D daily. To obtain this amount from milk one would need to consume 50 glasses. With a multivitamin more than 10 tablets would be necessary. Neither is advisable.
The skin produces approximately 20,000 IU vitamin D in response 20–30 minutes summer sun exposure—100 times more than the US government's recommendation of 200 IU per day!

5.  Avoid excessive alcohol.  Moderating alcohol intake has a direct effect on bone strength.  Drinking heavily increases calcium absorption from bone and decreases bone density and strength.  Excessive drinking also leads to falls which can be a cause of fragility fractures.  Carbonated colas also promote absorption of calcium from bone.  Excessive cola consumption should also be avoided.

6.  Stop Smoking.  Smoking is toxic to your bones.  It appears to increase the rate of bone loss when bone density is compared in smokers versus non-smokers.  In addition, the effects appear to build up over time.  Quitting smoking will halt and partially erase the effects of cigarettes on the bone over time.  However, it will not eliminate them completely; therefore, the best advice is not to start.

7.  Speak to your doctor.  Your doctor can evaluate your family history and current lifestyle to identify risk factors for osteoporosis.  Current medications or other medications may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Evaluation of your diet and nutritional counseling can help to insure to the proper intake of calcium and Vitamin D necessary to maintain bone health.  Bone Mineral Density testing can be arranged to identify problems and their severity, to institute the appropriate level of treatment.

8.  Medications.  Although there is no cure for osteoporosis, currently bisphosphonates (alendronate, ibandronate and risedronate), calcitonin, estrogens, parathyroid hormone and raloxifene are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the prevention and/or treatment of osteoporosis.  Like all medications, these drugs each have specific risks and benefits. There may also be possible interactions with drugs you are currently taking.  This should be carefully discussed with your doctor and your pharmacist.

9.  Start young.  Since most adults don not reach their peak bone density until age thirty, early habits are the most important.  The higher the bone density before it reaches its peak, the better.  Children should learn early to eat a diet adequate in calcium, to maintain high levels of activity, and to get enough time outdoors in the sunshine.  Needless to say, children should be taught not to smoke and to avoid excessive alcohol.  

Post a Comment
Avatar universal
by Juju968, May 18, 2009
Very good article. I am a 41 year old, very thin (5ft 6in & 109lbs,) caucasian female. Never smoked and don't consume alcohol. I had a hysterectomy at age 21 but have been on HRT ever since. Does the early menopause put me at a higher risk for osteoporosis than if I hit menopause at a normal age? Also, when the doctors suggested that I increase my calcium intake I started passing kidney stones within a year of increasing the calcium. I have had a DEXA scan that shows Osteopenia but don't really know how to hold off Osteoporosis if I can't orally increase my calcium. Have increased weight bearing exercise and would like to avoid broken bones although I have had a couple rib fractures with seemingly minor accidents. Any advice?

Avatar universal
by killerbean, May 18, 2009
Very informative article! Thank you.
I am 53 yrs old, smoke and have cocktails quite often. I have osteopenia and take a supplement (usually twice per day) which contains 500mg Calcium with 200 units Vitamin D. This has been very effective for me. I don't think it would hurt for juju968???
Thanks again, take care.
heidi jo

684916 tn?1308686859
by cookie3114, May 18, 2009
I have osteopenia and some osteoporosis and my mother and grandmothers had severe osteoporosis. My 27 year old daughter drinks diet sodas and "Go Girl" energy drinks daily. She is a fitness instructor and gets plenty of exercise. Do sodas and carbonated energy drinks have a detrimental effect on the bones for someone her age? If there is a problem, maybe she'll listen to you as I have nagged her to no avail!

Thank you, Dr. Gross.

A concerned mom

Avatar universal
by Liz4333, May 18, 2009
I am 82.  Take no meds for osteo.  Can't because of severe GERD.  I do exercise and take calcium and vit D.  Have recently been diagnosed with very slight osteopenia of one hip. What more can I do?  Oh, yes.  I recently read that prunes, yes, prunes of all things might help build bones.  I would appreciate lots of comments....PLEASE......Thanx

Avatar universal
by propionic, May 20, 2009
Hi. I'm 29 and have osteoporosis and was diagnosed at 22. I have already broken my spine three times, ankle and shoulder. I have been on calcium and Vit D for ages and have been on infusions for a while now. I don't drink alcohol, smoke or have a lot of caffeine. I'm fit - love the adrenylyn. Is there anything else I can do besides giving up ice skating - which I know isn't the best sport for me, but I love it and none of my fractures were caused by skating. I am in fairly contact pain from my back and use heat patches and painkillers.
Is there anything else I can do?

1289114 tn?1273215832
by osteon00, May 07, 2010
I had a simillar problems and my Dr. Joe Lane at Columbia who is one of the head of metabolic bone diseases gave me this to read


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