Bone Up on Bone Health
With 206 bones in the human body, you would think they'd get more fanfare. But many people take their bones -- the entire skeletal system -- for granted, pushing their bodies without attention to bone health.
Your bones perform a number of essential functions. They support and protect your internal organs. Bones serve as levers and braces for your muscles so you can move freely. They also produce and store blood cells in the bone marrow. While many think of bones as hard parts of the body that change little, they are actually comprised of living tissue that's constantly growing and serving important functions.
When a baby is born, bones are made of flexible cartilage. As people age, the bones go through a process of ossification, where the cartilage is replaced by hard deposits of calcium phosphate and stretchy collagen. Calcium and sodium, in addition to other minerals, are also found in bones. Although bones are very strong, they are not indestructable. When a bone breaks, it is called a fracture.
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), fractures are among the most common orthopedic complaints, with approximately 7 million broken bones each year in the U.S. Up until age 45, men are more likely to experience fractures. After age 45, the number of women experiencing fractures increases. Prior to age 75, the most common fracture occurs in the wrist. After age 75, hip fractures are the most common.
Fractures can occur from a number of causes. These include a blow to a bone, a fall, osteoporosis, a condition of weak or porous bones, or certain diseases or medications that affect bone density. The best way to care for bone fractures is to prevent them in the first place. Here's how:
* Make safety a priority during work and play. Always wear protective gear when the risk for injury is present.
* Exercise regularly. Frequent exercise improves bone health and strength.
* Consume a varied diet and foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are essential to maintaining healthy bones. Check with your doctor to see if a calcium supplement is necessary.