Fear of osteoporosis and breaking a bone becomes very real for many older adults. Thankfully there’s something you can do about it.
Osteoporosis is a disease in which bone mass deteriorates making bones brittle and susceptible to fracture. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 54 million Americans are estimated to have osteoporosis and after age 50, one in two women will have a fracture related to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is responsible for 2 million broken bones and approximately $19 billion in related costs. Despite the high numbers of those with this condition there’s hope in both preventing and treating this disease.
The hip, spine, and wrist are the areas most commonly affected by bone loss. Normal daily activity, such as performing household chores, can lead to spine fractures in people with osteoporosis. Postmenopausal osteoporosis is the most common form leaving many women at high risk for fracture.
The causes of osteoporosis include the uncontrollable factors of age and heredity. Everyone loses bone density with age and after the age of 35 years the body builds less new bone to replace bone loss. Heredity may help explain why some people are diagnosed in with osteoporosis early in life. A family history of fractures, a slender body build, and fair skin (Caucasian or Asian) can increase risk.
Controllable factors related to the development of osteoporosis include nutrition and lifestyle. Osteoporosis has been linked to poor nutrition including a low calcium diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking and excess alcohol intake have also been linked, as have some medications including steroids.
Steps to prevent osteoporosis include getting adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D in your diet. How much calcium you need depends on your age and other factors with the general dosing range being between 1,000 and 1,300 milligrams. Stroll through the produce section of Bert’s Red Apple Market to find high calcium foods including spinach, kale and broccoli. Enjoy the salmon fillet at Luc and you can get almost half of your vitamin D needs for the day — and while you’re splurging you might as well order the Chocolate Pôt de Crème. If you are searching for the right supplements talk with your doctor and the specialists at Pharmica.
Like muscles, bones need exercise and activity to stay healthy. No matter what your age, weight-bearing exercise can not only minimize bone loss but also decrease the risk of falls, which account for 50 percent of fractures. Performing regular exercise three to four times a week can be effective prevention and management of osteoporosis. Exercises that focus on balance, like Tai Chi, should be emphasized. If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis and are unsure how to start or progress an exercise routine you should check with your doctor and an occupational or physical therapist who have expertise with this diagnosis. An occupational therapist or exercise physiologist, like those at MoveMend, can teach safe techniques to perform functional exercises that can decrease your risk of falling and improve performance of daily activity such as getting up from a chair or climbing stairs.
You should talk to your doctor about osteoporosis if you went through early menopause, have taken corticosteroids for several months at a time, or if you have a family history of fractures and osteoporosis. It’s never too late to make lifestyle changes to address bone strength. The best thing you can do for yourself today may be to walk around the shops in Madison Valley then have yourself a salmon dinner.
AARON SHAW is a registered and licensed occupational therapist, certified hand therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. He operates MoveMend, a clinic located at 2818 E. Madison St. in Seattle.