Back to Top Skip to main content

Sticks and stones can break bones – and so can osteoporosis

Master Sgt. Kimberly Kaminski, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, flips a 445-pound tire during a workout at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Resistance training is just one of many steps to take to fight osteoporosis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley) Air Force Master Sgt. Kimberly Kaminski, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, flips a 445-pound tire during a workout at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Resistance training is just one of many steps to take to fight osteoporosis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley)

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Women's Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Bones are living, growing tissues that begin to feel the wear and tear of aging years before symptoms show. Osteoporosis, a severe form of bone density loss, affects roughly 10 million people in the United States. But once the disease becomes evident, usually as a broken bone, it’s too late to reverse the damage.

“Osteoporosis is a silent disease that doesn’t give patients any symptoms until something happens,” said Army Maj. Kate Kinnaird, an endocrinologist at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in Northern Virginia. The National Institute on Aging defines osteoporosis as a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily, most often affecting the hip, backbone, and wrist.

As people grow, the body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone tissue until it reaches peak bone mass sometime between the mid-20s and early 30s, said Kinnaird. Bone continues to break down as a person ages, but the replacement process slows.

Bone density loss is a natural part of aging that impacts both men and women, but women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, said Kinnaird. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, more than 80 percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women.

Hormones also play a role in building and strengthening bones, placing post-menopausal women at risk for osteoporosis due to the loss of estrogen. Bone loss occurs the fastest in the first few years after menopause, with one in four women age 65 and older being affected in the U.S, NIA said.

In addition to gender and age, other risk factors for osteoporosis include low body weight, a small frame, family history of the disease, and lack of physical activity, Kinnaird said. Smoking, daily alcohol intake, eating disorders, certain medications, and certain diseases, such as hyperthyroidism and diabetes, can also increase risk.

“There are certain patients that we know based on their medical history, or the medications they’re on, that would be at higher risk of early bone loss, so we’ll screen them sooner than we would the general population,” said Kinnaird.

The U.S. Preventive Service Task Force recommends women aged 65 and older, as well as women younger than 65 who are at greater risk, get screened for osteoporosis. For post-menopausal women, bone density is tested through an exam that compares a patient’s bone density to the density found in an average healthy adult of the same gender. The test result, known as a T-score, indicates how strong bones are, whether osteoporosis or low bone mass exist, and if the individual is at risk for having a fracture, said Kinnaird. For women who haven’t gone through menopause but have at least two risk factors, bone density is compared to patients in their own age group, she said.

Air Force Maj. Christopher Wild, a staff orthopedic surgeon at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, said being able to identify and treat people who have signs of bone loss can help prevent fractures. Once a person is diagnosed with osteoporosis, treatments focus on preventing further bone loss. Such treatments, which usually focus on proper nutrition and exercise, are based on the cause of the disease. The choice of medication is dependent on the severity of the bone loss and the patient’s risk for fracture, he added. Medications can include bisphosphonates, estrogen therapy, hormone therapy, parathyroid hormone, or calcitonin,

“The best treatment for osteoporosis is prevention,” said Wild. He recommends eating healthy, staying active, and having vitamin D and calcium daily to help maintain strong bones.

“Young people in their late teens and 20s can still influence their peak bone density, so it's important to make sure to be active and eat healthy while young and growing,” he said. A diet with nutrient-rich foods, such as dairy, fish, fruits, and vegetables can improve a person’s overall health and the health of the bones. The recommended daily intake for an adult is 1,200-1,500 milligrams of calcium and 800-1,000 IUs of vitamin D per day, he said, while children ages 9-18 should get 1,300 milligrams of calcium.

While low-impact workouts, such as swimming, can be good exercise, Kinnaird recommends using weight-bearing exercises, strength training, or resistance training for bone health. Exercises like walking and running can add enough stress to bones to maintain their strength, she said.

“Osteoporosis may be more common among older women, but it’s important to take care of ourselves as early on as possible, “said Kinnaird. “The choices we make every day about food and exercise can make a significant difference later on in life. It’s not too late to start.”

You also may be interested in...

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Keep Cold Food Cold

Infographic
10/16/2019
Food Safety Tip: Keep cold food cold

Don't let your cold dishes sit out on a counter for more than 2 hours. Keep it chilled at 40 degrees or less.

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Nutrition

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Cook Food Thoroughly

Infographic
10/16/2019
Infographic: Holiday Food Safety Tip #3, Cook Food Thoroughly

Use a thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the right minimum internal temperature.

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Nutrition

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Wash Your Hands

Infographic
10/16/2019
Infographic: Holiday Food Safety Tip - Wash Your Hands

Washing your hands often is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of bacteria.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Operation Live Well

Holiday Food Safety Tip: Marinate Meat Safely

Infographic
10/16/2019
Holiday Food Safety Tip #2

Marinate your food in the refrigerator, and keep it there until you're ready to cook it.

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Nutrition

Headline: For a good grade on bone health, aim for D – vitamin D

Article
10/15/2019
An Army trainee at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, gets a bone density scan as part of a study with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Massachusetts, that's aimed at reducing musculoskeletal injuries. (Courtesy photo)

Women generally more deficient than men in this essential nutrient, studies find

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

The Head, Hand, and Heart of Women’s Health

Article
10/4/2019
Maintaining peak health is critical for all military personnel. This month, we focus on women whose health concerns and symptoms may be different from those in men. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Roger Jackson)

Health is universal for military personnel and civilians, but some health concerns affect women differently. Here are a few examples.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Preventive Health | Women's Health

Women's Health Month: Take ownership of health, wellness issues

Article
10/1/2019
Navy Cmdr. Francesca Cimino, M.D. (standing) confers with a colleague in the Family Medicine department at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. (Courtesy photo)

Regular cancer screenings are vital, but there's much more to longevity

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

A surprise delivery at Fort Bragg’s maternity fair

Article
9/19/2019
Pamela Riis (in pink the pink top) learns more about the use of nitrous oxide during labor at the semiannual Fort Bragg Maternity Fair. More than 300 pregnant women, soon-to-be dads, parents of infants, and those planning to have a baby soon participated in the event. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Beal)

For Linda Steadman, a certified nursing assistant, this will be a day to remember

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Report on Rate of Maternal Mortality Among Members of the Armed Forces

Congressional Testimony
7/10/2019

H.R. 5515, NDAA Conference Report for FY 2019, 115-874, Pg. 861

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in military

Article
6/26/2019
Some sexually transmitted infections are on the rise in the military. To increase awareness, members of Team McConnell attend a briefing on STIs at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick)

What you need to know to stay safe

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Men's Health | Women's Health

Mail-in colon cancer screening may end colonoscopy for most

Article
6/19/2019
Army Medicine logo

The best test is the one the patient will do

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health

Experts: Carbs are not the enemy in health, wellness battle

Article
6/18/2019
Navy Ensign Ted Johnson completed the Marine Corps Marathon while following a ketogenic diet, but now he's back on carbs. (Courtesy photo)

Shift focus away from any specific macronutrient, experts say

Recommended Content:

Men's Health | Nutrition

DHA PI 6200.02: Comprehensive Contraceptive Counseling and Access to the Full Range of Methods of Contraception

Policy

This Defense Health Agency-Procedural Instruction (DHA-PI), based on the authority of References (a) and (b), in accordance with the requirements of References (c) through (i), and the guidance of References (j) through (v), establishes the Defense Health Agency’s (DHA) procedures for comprehensive standards on healthcare with respect to access to comprehensive contraceptive counseling and the full range of contraceptive methods for members of the Armed Forces and all eligible beneficiaries of the Military Health System (MHS).

  • Identification #: 6200.02
  • Date: 5/13/2019
  • Type: DHA Procedural Instruction
  • Topics: Women's Health

Mother's Day a chance to highlight care in the Military Health System

Article
5/8/2019
The Nunns with daughter Sabella and son Gideon. (Courtesy file photo)

The Military Health System helps deliver more than 100,000 babies each year

Recommended Content:

Military Hospitals and Clinics | Children's Health | Women's Health

TRICARE Maternity Policy Changes 2019

Infographic
4/10/2019
This infographic discusses updates to TRICARE's maternity benefits

This infographic discusses updates to TRICARE's maternity benefits

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 7

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.