Physically, it’s easiest to focus on the external, on what you can see. If your belly starts to bulge or your muscles stop, you notice immediately. If an abnormality appears, you spot it within minutes. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the internal parts of your body. They are out of sight and, often, out of mind. You forget that they too can weaken and fail. You ignore their health, which can lead to danger, especially when you’re neglecting your bones.
Every year, 329,000 hip fractures occur in the United States. Women are more likely to suffer from these injuries than men. However, men are more likely to die as a result of them, and so it is important for both sexes to be aware of their risks. If they are, they can take the steps necessary to maximize safety and minimize injury. They can focus on strengthening bones and obtaining optimal balance. They can dedicate time to activity, particularly strength-bearing activity, and they can talk to their doctor about prevention methods. They can, in short, turn their risk around. But how do they know what that risk is?
For men, it’s a fairly minimal task. Little attention has been paid to males’ risk of fracture/weak bones, so knowledge of what increases the likelihood of a break is still small. However, it is known that age, weight and a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) all impact bone strength. If you are over 50, below 155 pounds and have had COPD, you are at the highest risk level. Youth, a weight over 175 pounds and no COPD puts you at the lowest. Variants in each category will, of course, alter the likelihood for each individual. Assess your risk and talk to your doctor.
If you are a woman, you have a few more things to consider. While age and weight play an important role in bone strength, they are not the only factors. Ethnicity, smoking, diabetes, medications, height, history of a fracture and family history all contribute to your odds. Fortunately, researchers have developed an 11-point test that will help you assess your risk. If you find that you are in the danger zone or anywhere near it, see your doctor.
You can’t see your bones, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about them. Make sure they stay strong so that the rest of you can, too.
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