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Bone loss, which is a condition in which bone is resorbed by the body faster than it is created, can be the result of a number of factors including lifestyle choices, medications, diet, and age. It is quite common for bone loss to begin occurring around or slightly after the age of 30. This is because most people reach peak bone density right around this time, after which the loss begins to occur. Although a certain amount of bone loss is common in people due to aging, it is important to keep loss to a minimum in order to avoid osteoporosis and brittle bones. It can be avoided by taking a few steps to stay healthy and, in some cases, also taking medication.
Not all factors affecting bone density are avoidable. For example, it is impossible to stop the body from aging. Also, some people cannot avoid taking certain medications that can lead to a decrease in bone density. There are, however, a number of factors that affect one's bone density that are within one's control. Diet is a good example of this. People can prevent bone loss by making sure that they get plenty of calcium in their diets. Additionally, calcium supplements or vitamins that have plenty of calcium can be used to round out a diet that might not generally include enough calcium.
Exercise and smoking are also factors that are within one's control. People who smoke and people who don't get enough exercise are at risk for decreased bone density. Therefore, to avoid loss of bone, it is important to quit smoking and to get regular exercise. Consult a physician before beginning an exercise routine and also ask how much exercise, and what types of exercise are best for one's personal level of fitness.
In order to assess one's level of bone loss, a bone density test can be taken. After taking this test, a person can review the results with a doctor and decide on a course of action that will help her to keep her bones as healthy as possible and to avoid further loss. Although many people think that bone loss is a problem that is faced primarily by women, it is also important for men to monitor their bone density, especially after the age of 65. Although men do not go through menopause, which is a time when women tend to lose the most bone matter, they do stand to lose bone density in their later years.
@ElizaBennett - That's so interesting! I breastfed my baby for about six months and I just assumed that it didn't do my bones any good. I'm planning another baby and hoping to make it past a year this time (I had work issues).
To pick up another issue from the article, isn't it only weight-bearing exercise that helps with preventing bone density loss? Swimming, for instance, is great exercise, but I don't think it helps your bones.
(When I was a kid, I was really into the space program. I remember learning that astronauts who are in space for a long time can lose bone density from not being exposed to gravity; that would actually be one challenge with a long mission, like going to Mars. And when you're swimming, of course you're weightless.)
It may sound counterintuitive, but breastfeeding is one thing that can aid in bone loss prevention. Studies show that you lose a certain amount of bone mass during breastfeeding, but it rapidly is replaced after weaning. In later years, there seems to be a protective effect against osteoporosis.
(Disclaimer: I have nothing against moms who formula feed and no desire to give them guilt trips. You gotta do what's best for you and your baby. But if you're on the fence about nursing and your grandmas both shrank an inch in later life, it might be something to think about.)
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