Bone Up on a Key Health Issue!

How’s your bone health? Healthy bones help us stay mobile, anchor our muscles, protect our organs and store calcium. But many of us don’t give our bones a second thought until we break one or a doctor presents the bad news: “You have low bone mass (or osteopenia or osteoporosis).” Osteopenia is the term for a condition of low bone mass, as bones become weaker,  Osteoporosis (“porous bone,”) is the term for a condition of weak and brittle bones.  That raises the risk of fracture…so bone health is really important!

How much do you know about bone health? Take our quiz and check the answers below:

  1. At maturity, the rest of you ages but your bones remain the same. True or False?
  2. Women are more at risk than men. True or False?
  3. Osteoporosis strikes everyone equally after a certain age.  True or False?
  4. Men don’t have to worry as much about osteoporosis. True or False?

Treatment Advances

  • If low bone mass gets severe enough, treatment options include a wide variety of medications. Some are antiresorptive (prevent bone resorption) and others are anabolic (make new bone formation). Now, some doctors are rethinking which order these drug types should be used, says Felicia Cosman,* MD, professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University. “Most doctors have been using the anabolic after the antiresorptive,” she says. “It may be time to flip the order, at least in the high-risk group [those with recent fractures].” That’s the finding of her recent study. She found that using the anabolic first optimized bone density.
  • As for the risks of osteoporosis drugs? One risk is an atypical femur fracture, linked with some antiresorptives; another is osteonecrosis of the jaw (death of cells in jawbone) linked with bisphosphonates (a kind of antiresorptive drug).  According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, both risks are rare.

To maintain bone health, here’s what else you can do: 

  • Get enough calcium. The RDA for women 50 plus and for men 70 plus is 1,200 milligrams daily.  For men 60 to 70, it’s 1,000. (One cup of milk has about 300 mg.)
  • Vitamin D is crucial, too. For adults 19 to 70, the RDA is 600 International units a day; 800 for adults 71 and older. Your doctor may recommend higher levels, so ask.
  • Get weight-bearing exercise—walking, jogging, stair climbing.  Balance exercises are a smart idea, too, since most hip fractures come from falls.  Senior Planet offers lots of online fitness classes (look here); our Fit Fusion class online Mondays and Wednesdays (learn more here) can help build muscle and bone strength, too.
  • Don’t smoke; limit alcohol. Women should not have more than one drink a day; men, two.
  • Ask your doctor if you need a bone density test or a blood test to check vitamin D levels.

Quiz Answers

  1. False. Your bones age with you. Peak bone mass is usually reached around age 30. After that, your bones still ”remodel,” building new bone as old bone is broken down, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
  2. True. Women are at greater risk, since they have less bone tissue than men. Those who are extremely thin or have a small body frame are more likely to have low bone mass, since there is less bone mass to draw from as you age.
  3. False. Those of white or Asian descent are at greater risk than others. Having a family history increases risk too.
  4. False. Low bone mass isn’t just a woman thing. About 25% of patients with fractures are male, and a new study headed by Dr. Felicia Cosman* looking at nearly 10,000 men who had fractures found that older men with fractures tend to be under-diagnosed and under-treated.

*Full disclosure: Dr. Cosman reports consulting and speaking fees from Amgen and Radius Health, makers of osteoporosis drugs.


This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.  


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