May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 10 million Americans have the disease and that almost 34 million more are estimated to have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis.
In osteoporosis, the bones are weakened by loss of bone tissue (a condition called osteopenia), making a person much more susceptible to fractures. The disorder is often a silent one, discovered only after fractures occur. In some serious cases, fractures can occur with just a sneeze.
We often equate osteoporosis with aging and women, but anorexia and other eating disorders are also risk factors for the disease, regardless of gender. Some studies have estimated that up to 85 percent of partially recovered anorexia patients have bone mineral deficiencies, even if they regain their periods and are within 10 percent of an ideal body weight. People with bulimia or ED-NOS are also at risk of osteoporosis, especially if they have had amenorrhea or significant weight loss, as well as female athletes who restrict their eating or who who have stopped menstruating. Read more about the risk factors for osteoporosis here.
According to eating disorders publisher Gurze, the mainstays of current treatment are weight restoration, normalizing body composition (particularly fat content), and use of calcium and vitamin D supplements. Estrogen supplementation (without weight gain) does not stop further bone loss or correct low bone mineral density. Still, while gaining weight may help, it may not fully restore bone mass.
The National Academy of Sciences recommends adults ages 19 – 50 incorporate at least 1,000 mg per day of calcium, preferably in calcium-rich foods and 1,200 mg per day for everyone over the age of 50. Keep in mind: You don’t have to drink your body weight in milk to get calcium, either. Green vegetables are also high in calcium, while some soy products have been calcium-fortified. For a list of recommendations, read here. Vitamin D is also important, as is regular physical activity and not smoking.
Has anyone here been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis or know someone who has? Have a great non-dairy, but high-calcium recipe to share? Discuss your experiences and suggestion below.