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Calcium (Osteoporosis)

Osteoporosis is a disease that causes one’s bones to become brittle and weak.  Many people do not realize that their bones are made up of living tissue and are constantly changing.  New bone tissue is formed and old bone tissue is broken down throughout an individual’s life span. Kids, teenagers, and young adults form bone more quickly than it is broken down, and their bones become denser.  After approximately age 30, however, the production of bone tissue slows down and tissue is destroyed faster than it is made, causing bones to decrease in density.  Osteoporosis is a disease that causes tissue destruction to occur more rapidly than normal.  It can inhibit an individual’s bone tissue from regenerating, increase the rate of bone deterioration, or cause both of these to occur.

 

Prevalence

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), approximately 54 million individuals in the United States have osteoporosis or a low bone mass that puts them at risk for developing osteoporosis.  Also, the NOF approximates that one in every two women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. For men over the age of 50 the approximation is one in four.  Unfortunately, osteoporosis is a bit of a silent disease that does not give many warning signs before is becomes advanced and difficult treat.  It is much easer to decrease deterioration than it is to stimulate growth.  Understanding one’s personal risk for osteoporosis and catching low bone density as early as possible can make a huge difference the quality of an individual’s life as they age.  Risk can be assessed with a simple blood test for osteoporosis.  

 

Risk Factors

Risk factors for osteoporosis and low bone density include: being female, early menopause, smoking, alcohol use, low body weight, inactive lifestyle, family history of osteoporosis, personal history of anorexia nervosa, and not eating enough calcium in one’s diet.  Different individuals need different levels of calcium to keep their bones healthy.  For many individuals, the level of calcium obtained from a standard diet in insufficient for their body’s needs.  There are not many warning signs of osteoporosis or weakening bone structure.  Many individuals do not know that they have osteoporosis until they have broken a bone and gone into the doctor to have the break treated.  Therefore, blood testing is very important in the early detection of bone related disorders.  Individuals, especially those with one or more risk factor for osteoporosis, should considered ordering a panel blood test for osteoporosis that includes a calcium blood test to assess their overall bone health. 

 

How the Blood Test Works

Calcium is stored in one’s bones, which help to regulate the amount of calcium in the blood. If there is not enough calcium in the blood the bones release calcium, and if there is too much calcium in the blood the bones reabsorb calcium.  If a calcium blood test shows elevated or depleted levels of calcium, a bone problem may be indicated.  Catching bone density loss early gives individuals the best chance of being able to stop bone deterioration before the condition becomes physically painful or debilitating.

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