Why should we think about our bones? After all, what makes them so important?
Well, they do hold us up, after all!
It seems learning about problems with bone health is gaining in popularity, especially in our aging loved ones. So much so that May has been designated Osteoporosis Month in order to spread the word about prevention of bone loss and ways to decrease our risk factors of osteoporosis.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation is trying to get the word out to all of us. They encourage all of us to think about our own bone health and talk with our family members about family bone history.
Osteoporosis can impact everyone.
Osteoporosis causes our bones to become weak and brittle, they can fracture more easily with little impact. Sometimes the simple act of coughing or bending over can cause a bone fracture when a person has osteoporosis.
Because our bones never stop changing, they lose and rebuild new tissue all the time, osteoporosis can happen when our new bone growth doesn’t keep up with our bone loss. There are generally no symptoms until the damage is done once bone pain and fractures occur. Losing height, becoming stooped or spine pain can be signs that osteoporosis is underway.
In the U.S today, about 10 million people have osteoporosis and another 34 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.
A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk for breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.
One in four men are at risk of suffering a broken bone due to osteoporosis and men older than 50 are more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Despite these statistics, only a small percentage of people — men, women, or their children — talk about bone health or the potential for developing osteoporosis. Even fewer have ever discussed it with a healthcare professional.
Basics of Bone Health
There are things we can do to reduce the risk associated with the development of osteoporosis or low bone density. Here are some suggestions from the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
- Get all the calcium and vitamin D your body requires each day. You can increase your dairy intake with low fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark green leafy vegetables or fish with bones like sardines. There are calcium fortified foods, such as orange juice and cereal, that will help also.
Children (4-18): 1,000-1,300 mg Ca, 600 IU Vit D
Women Under 50: 1000 mg Ca, 400-800 IU Vit D
Post Menopause: 1,200 mg Ca, 800-1,000 IU Vit D
Men: 1,000-1,200 mg Ca, 400-1,000 IU Vit D
- Be sure to include weight-bearing activities in your exercise plan. Weight-bearing activities include weight lifting and resistance bands. Also add in muscle strengthening and balance exercises to help prevent falls. Yoga, tai chi, dancing and walking will help.
- Stop smoking. Smoking can lead to bone loss (yet another reason to quit or, even better, never start).
- Limit alcohol intake, since it seems to interfere with absorption of calcium.
- Eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, include a rainbow and fill half your plate with them at each meal.
- Discuss with your healthcare provider your personal risk for bone loss and osteoporosis. Are there any specific tests or treatments that will help you identify, prevent or treat bone loss? Do you need a bone density test?
- Talk to members of your family about family history of osteoporosis or low bone density. Does it tend to run in your family?
- As your children grow, you can help them grow strong and dense bones that will lower their risk for later bone loss. Eating a healthy, nutritious diet and being physically active throughout their childhood will help.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
Some of us may be at greater risk than others for developing weak bones. There are some things we should be doing if we fit in these categories to help our bones stay strong. However, some risk factors we can’t change so we definitely need to be aware of our bone health as we age.
- Being a female (though 20% men will develop bone loss as well)
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Age – the older you get, the greater the risk
- Low body weight and those with petite body frames
- Low estrogen levels, infrequent periods, menopause, ovary removal
- Not eating well, having poor nutritional health
- Physical inactivity
- Smoking and drinking
- Overactive thyroid
- Gastric bypass or intestinal surgery causing a lack of absorption of key nutrients
- Long-term use of corticosteroid medications
If your senior loved one has already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, help in continuing the treatment as prescribed by the doctor, which may include calcium and vitamin D supplements, getting out in the sunshine, being more physically active, and taking medication to strengthen bones – – and help them take precautions to avoid falls.
Let’s help spread the word of the importance of keeping our bones strong, not just as we age but all throughout our lives!
Tell us what things you like to do to preserve your senior loved ones’ bone strength?