Osteopenia – Saving our bones
Your skeleton is similar to the frame and foundation of a house. It gives form, supports weight and protects and shields the heart, lungs, and brain for example. Homes that are well built are said to have good bones. But all structures, houses and bodies, require maintenance. The best time to build strong skeletal framework is when you’re with peak density by age 30, when bones begin thinning. Nothing we do will ever give back the youthful peak but we can adopt bone-preserving habits. You can help maintain bone mass and even build a little more, reducing the risk of debilitating fractures later in life. There are three essential ways to strengthen your bones—good nutrition, exercise, and, if needed, bone-building medications.
Two Types of Bone
Bones are composed of two essential tissue types, compact and trabecular. Both consist of a mesh of collagen fibers, inlaid with calcium and other minerals, but they have different densities, and therefore they age differently. Exercise can affect both types. Compact bone tissue is densely packed, composed of units called osteons (Greek for “bone”), which consist of tight plates wound into tubular forms that resemble rolled-up magazines. Trabecular bone, meaning “like a little bean,” consists of millions of tiny beams and plates that form a lattice-like matrix. It is less dense and spongier in consistency than compact bone, and also metabolically more active, so bones begin to lose density and weaken faster. Most bones contain a combination of compact and trabecular.
Long, regular bones, like those of the arms, legs and ribs, consist primarily of compact bone. Irregularly shaped bones or parts of bones, such as the ends of the leg or arm bones, the spinal vertebrae and the pelvis are mostly trabecular bone. The spine is particularly susceptible to osteoporosis because it is trabecular bone and it is also metabolically more active, so when bones begin to lose density, the vertebra is the first to suffer.