"Avoiding “Swiss Cheese Bones”: Ways to Strengthen and Prevent Holes in Your Bones"

"Avoiding “Swiss Cheese Bones”: Ways to Strengthen and Prevent Holes in Your Bones"

Bones play a crucial role in providing structure, protecting our organs, and facilitating movement. Throughout our lives, our bones undergo changes, with maximum growth occurring around the age of 35, after which they gradually lose density. It's natural for bones to have tiny holes that allow blood vessels and nerves to pass through. However, as we age, bones naturally become more porous, leading to a decrease in mass and making them more susceptible to fractures or breaks—a condition known as Osteoporosis.


These changes can be visualized under a microscope, resembling the familiar pattern of Swiss cheese. Various factors can contribute to the acceleration of this process, including the Caucasian and Asian races, being female, early menopause, a slender build (weighing less than 127 lbs.), and a positive family history of fractures (more commonly hip fractures). It's worth noting that Osteoporosis is a significant concern, accounting for 1.7 million fractures requiring hospitalization in the United States. Understanding these aspects helps us appreciate the importance of maintaining bone health throughout our lives.


Symptoms and Signs

Some common indicators of Osteoporosis include bone pain, fractures (with the hip and vertebrae being the most susceptible), and the shrinkage of vertebrae, potentially causing a "hunchback" appearance or a loss of height.


Can Osteoporosis be prevented?

The good news is that Osteoporosis can be prevented by incorporating some simple lifestyle changes.


1. Sedentary Lifestyle: As we lose muscle strength, bone mass decreases. Kickstart your journey by engaging in exercises like walking, weightlifting and sports like pickleball—activities that put healthy stress on bones and promote the growth of new bone tissue.


2. Cigarette Smoking: It's never too late to quit smoking! Numerous studies indicate a direct link between smoking and bone mass loss.


3. Alcohol Consumption: Moderation is key—limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day.


4. Caffeine: Enjoy your coffee but keep it in check—limit caffeine intake to no more than two servings per day.


5. Low Calcium and Vitamin D: Ensure you get an adequate daily supply of Calcium and Vitamin D, either through diet or supplements. Foods rich in these nutrients include dairy products, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and lean protein.


How do doctors diagnose Osteoporosis?

Doctors use three primary methods:


  • Fragility Fractures: Breaking bones with minimal trauma, such as falling from a standing height or less, indicates Osteoporosis.
  • Bone Mineral Density (DEXA) Scan: This measures a score called the "T score." A score below -2.5 indicates Osteoporosis, while -1 to -2.5 suggests Osteopenia, a midway point diagnosis.
  • FRAX Risk Score (10-Year): This provides a 10-year absolute risk estimate for developing a hip or another major osteoporotic fracture.


Don't wait for a diagnosis! Embrace simple lifestyle changes now to ensure your bones stay strong and resilient, avoiding an appearance resembling Swiss cheese down the road.


Keren George, MD, is accepting patients at White River Health Internal Medicine. To schedule an appointment, call 870-262-1530.