Breaking down osteoporosis myths, saving your bones

One local doctor says osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging and it's never too late to do something about it.
Ignoring the health of your bones can be critical as you age. About 48 million Americans have low bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis.

For Santa Monica resident Ina Seigel, who suffers from osteoporosis, a simple bend used to be dangerous. Her doctor says weak bones led to a spine fracture. And when he tried to fuse her bones, he saw just how serious her condition was.

"We used screws to fix the bone and try to work on the bone and the bone feels like butter," said Dr. Neel Anand, director of spine trauma at Cedars Sinai Spine Center.

Like many, Seigel thought it was something that just happens with age. But Dr. Anand says that's not true.

Osteoporosis is not part of normal aging and it's one of the many myths that lead to poor bone health.

Osteoporosis happens when the fibers that form bone start to dissipate. And as the bone gets weaker and weaker, if you put any weight on it, it's just going to crumble and crack.

To prevent this, Dr. Anand recommends weight bearing exercise and anything that helps improve posture, like yoga or walking. You should also eat a variety of calcium rich foods.

You have until about age 25 to build your bone bank.

"That's when you really want to build your bone mass because a lot depends on where you start off, but after that there's a gradual decline," he said.

But you're never too old to build bone mass. If you don't use it, you lose it.

Another myth? Bone fractures only happen with an injury or fall.

A lot of people think that they fall and then they break their hips, but in actuality, doctors say what happens is you break your hip while you're walking and then you fall.

"The bone just crumbles. It crumbles and cracks like an egg shell," said Dr. Anand.

One warning sign of brittle bones: you notice you're getting a little shorter. He says don't wait this long to get help.

"Osteoporosis should be treated and not ignored because it only tends to get worse," said Dr. Anand. "I think it is preventable if caught early, treated well and it's something that we have very good medications today."

Today, Seigel relies on a healthy diet and active lifestyle to maintain her bone strength.

"I think we need to know about our bodies so we can be in charge," she said.

Also osteoporosis is not just a woman's disease, Dr. Anand says about a fourth of all Americans with osteoporosis are men.

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