is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.
And I'm Bob Doughty. Today we tell about osteoporosis, a disease
that can make bones weak so they break easily.
Osteoporosis is a silent disease until it develops. If you do not know you have it, it can hurt
fifty-five year-old American woman named Jill went skiing several years
ago. Although she was a good skier, she
fell on a difficult hill. She attempted
to get up, but could not move one leg. She was taken to a hospital, where doctors found she had broken a bone
in her upper leg. And there was another
discovery in the hospital. She had
Today, Jill still goes skiing. But now she takes medicine to protect against
Jill, many people do not know they have osteoporosis unless they break a
bone. Or, they may find that they are
Osteoporosis can make it hard for a
person to stand up straight if the disease is untreated for a long time. When it has progressed very far, walking can
be difficult. Severe osteoporosis in
older adults can take away their independence.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation works to inform
Americans about bone health. The group
says breaks caused by weakened bones can lead to pain, disability and even
osteoporosis means porous bones, or bones that are not solid enough. The disease harms bones by removing calcium
and other important minerals from tissue. Bones are living tissue. Tissues continually break down and then they
replace themselves. But as people get
older, more bone breaks down than gets replaced. The result is that small spaces inside the
bone get larger. And the shell of the bones
The National Osteoporosis
Foundation, or NOF, says eight of every ten osteoporosis patients are
women. It says the condition is most
common in Caucasian women over age fifty.
Last year, the group suggested that doctors expand their list of persons
to watch for osteoporosis. The additions
included Latina, African American, Asian and other women. The NOF also called attention to the fact
that men can also suffer from osteoporosis.
Before people develop osteoporosis, they have a condition
called osteopenia. Treatment can prevent
this condition from becoming osteoporosis. Doctors agree that the best way to deal with osteopenia or osteoporosis is
to find and treat it before the disease progresses. Bone damage need not be permanent. Drugs can help replace lost bone.
of osteoporosis and osteopenia is made by measuring the mineral density of a
person's bones. In this case, density means
the strength of the bones.
Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says there are a number of ways bone mineral density
can be measured. The group suggests bone
mineral density examinations for women sixty years and older. Doctors use the tests to examine the hip and
spine, or backbone.
The NOF says a test called Dual-energy X-ray
absorptiometry, or DXA, is the best test for osteoporosis. DXA uses radiation from x-rays. The patient does not get much radiation from
the process, which lasts only a few minutes.
Another way to measure bone-density
is called peripheral bone mineral density testing. It is often used in the United States to show
people if they are in danger of osteoporosis. A moveable machine does the test.
companies sometimes perform this examination at an office or other place of
business. The test costs less than the DXA. But peripheral testing measures only one part
of the body. Usually that place is the
wrist, the heel, or the bones between finger joints.
If the testing device is in good condition, it probably
will give satisfactory results. But what
if the patient has normal bones in the tested areas, but not in others? A person could appear normal on the
test. But she still might have osteoporosis
in her backbone or hips.
Differences in bone mineral density among body parts
are most often found in women who recently ended their childbearing years. The density may be normal at one place but
low at another. Bone mineral density in
the spine decreases first. A woman's
bone mineral density becomes about the same in all parts of her body after she
is seventy years old.
The lower-cost test may not give
complete answers. But it can warn that
osteoporosis threatens or has started.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation has advised
several steps toward the goal of healthy bones. Its experts say get enough calcium and vitamin D. The experts say do not smoke or drink too
much alcohol. Talk to your healthcare
provider about bone health and a possible bone mineral density test.
The NOF's guide for healthcare
providers says people over fifty should get one thousand two hundred milligrams
of calcium every day. The guide also
says this age group should get eight hundred to one thousand International
Units of Vitamin D. It says Vitamin
D-Two and Vitamin D-Three are both good for bones.
and milk products contain calcium. So do
fish with soft bones, like salmon, and dark green leafy vegetables. Some orange juice, bread and cereals may have
people also take pills containing calcium. But be careful about how much calcium you take. You should not have more
than two thousand five hundred milligrams a day. That total includes calcium from food and all
other sources. Too much calcium can
cause problems like kidney stones.
Vitamin D absorbs, or takes up, calcium. Fish, cereal and milk are good sources of
Vitamin D. If you spend at least fifteen
minutes a day in the sun without a product to block the sun's radiation, you
probably get enough Vitamin D.
kinds of drugs treat osteoporosis. America's
Mayo Clinic medical centers say bisphosphonates are the most popular. Fosamax, Actonel and Boniva are products of
this family of drugs. The Mayo Clinic
advises that these drugs are very effective and appear safe for most people if
taken as directed. Fosamax has been sold
for at least ten years. Other drugs
proven effective for osteoporosis are hormones and parathyroid hormone.
who treat osteoporosis patients say physical exercise can help the bones. For active people, lifting weights or playing
tennis, slow running and dancing can be helpful.
Some older adults worry about exercising. They believe they could hurt themselves. The Mayo Clinic says that could be true if
they have not exercised in the past. It
says people who have not been active in the past need a doctor's advice before
Some people who are
afraid of exercise worry about its effects on their joints, especially the
knees. They are afraid exercise might cause
osteoarthritis, a condition in which connective tissue around the bones wears
down. A study in The Netherlands found
that could be true. Results of the study
were reported recently in the publication "Arthritis Care and Research."
studied one thousand six hundred seventy eight people over a period of twelve
years. The subjects were between fifty-five
and eighty-five years old. The results linked
knee osteoarthritis to high mechanical strain -- activities that are hard on
study found that regular exercise does not harm joints. Those findings were reported in "The Journal
of Anatomy." Scientists from Germany and
the United States considered earlier research on the effect of exercise on
joints. They did not find a link between
regular exercise and knee osteoarthritis.
you are still worried about exercise for osteoporosis, why not go for a walk? But you have to do it correctly. The Mayo Clinic says hold your head
high. Straighten your back and neck as
much as possible. Tighten the chest
muscles. As you move along, let your
shoulders and arms move freely and naturally.
places the full weight of your body on your bones. It also has other good
effects. It raises the levels of chemicals
in the brain known as endorphins. They reduce
pain and make you feel happier.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Barbara Klein. Join us again next
week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.