There is an old spiritual song with the topic found in Ezekiel 37:1-14 about the Valley of Dry Bones. The song goes something like, “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones … now hear the word of the Lord”. The song was written by James Weldon Johnson and first recorded in 1928. The verses speak to the bones coming to life upon hearing the voice of God.
Bones that make up the skeleton, the framework of the body, are essential to good health. The function of bones is to support soft tissue and protect vital organs. One of the more common diseases of bones is osteoporosis. This is an ailment that is more common in women than in men, and more frequently found in Caucasian and Asian populations; however, African Americans are also prone to osteoporosis.
What causes osteoporosis? The exact cause is unknown, although bones are in a constant state of renewal. New bone is made and old bone is broken down which causes a loss in bone mass. When one is young, the process of bone growth is faster than bone break down, thus the bone mass increases. Later in life as one ages, the bone loss is greater than growth, thus the bone mass decreases. Because of the lack of bone density, in Americans there are approximately two million fractures per year due to osteoporosis.
Once bones are weakened by osteoporosis, symptoms that may become apparent are back pain, loss of height, stooped posture, and fractures. Risk factors for osteoporosis are gender, age, race, family history, body frame size (the more petite the more at risk), nutrition, lifestyle (inactivity), medications, smoking, alcohol intake, and decrease in hormones.
Some of the various medical conditions that are risk factors that contribute to bone weakness include overactive thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands, history of weight loss surgery, organ transplant, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple myeloma and rheumatoid arthritis.
What are some things one can do to decrease the risk of osteoporosis? A diet rich in calcium can help. Foods that are calcium rich are dairy products, salmon with bones, sardines, kale, broccoli, dried figs, and calcium-fortified foods such as breads and juices. Calcium can also be taken as supplements. The Cleveland Clinic recommends 1000 mg a day for those between the ages of 19 to 50, and 1500 mg for those over 50. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of dietary calcium. Daily exercise is important to maintaining good bone health. These activities include walking, jogging, aerobics and weightlifting -- all good for strengthening bones. Avoiding smoking and alcohol will also help to decrease the risk of bone impairment.
Bone density examinations are important. An examination called a DXA Scan is pain free and can be done relatively quickly. It looks at the wrist, hip and spine. If weaknesses are found, more bone health promoting behaviors can be initiated.
Pat Couch, RN, BSN, Parish Nurse,
St. John Lutheran, Country Club Hills, IL, USA