As we welcome a new year, resolutions are often made to stay healthy. At any age, steps can be taken to keep bones strong.
The word osteoporosis means “porous bone”. It’s a disease where bones become weak due to bone loss, increasing the chance for bone breakage. Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because your bones may be weak without you knowing it. Bone loss often happens over a long period of time so for many people, a broken bone is the first sign they have osteoporosis. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat for almost 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older.
Are you at risk for osteoporosis?
According the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, the following are the top osteoporosis risk factors.
- Getting older
- Being female
- Being Caucasian or Asian (Hispanic and African American women are also at risk but less so)
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
What can you do to keep your bones healthy?
- Include plenty of calcium in your diet and pay attention to your vitamin D intake to prevent or slow bone loss. Take a look at some bone health basics and sources of calcium with recommended calcium and vitamin D intake charts.
- Physical fitness is a valuable factor in a healthy life. As we get older, it’s crucial to include some form of exercise in our daily routine. Various exercises such as stretching and balance exercises are good to lengthen muscle tissue and help prevent wasting and shortening. Weight-bearing exercise is the best for your bones because it forces you to work against gravity. Examples include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, weight training, tennis, yoga and dancing.
Staying active is a wonderful way to stay healthy but be sure to consult your medical provider before beginning an exercise program.
- Eliminate bad health habits such a smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
- Since osteoporosis has very few symptoms, ask your medical provider if you might be a candidate for a bone density test.
- Avoid unnecessary risks. If it’s windy and icy outside, avoid going outside to prevent a fall. Falls are a common reason for emergency room visits and hospital stays for older adults. A serious injury, such as a hip fracture or breaking a limb can be devastating. Make sure your living environment is organized and take measures to prevent a serious injury.
- Here are some HHQI resources regarding fall prevention:
Remember, it’s never too late to improve your bone health. A diet with adequate calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity can help prevent bone loss and fractures. Ask you medical provider about supplements or other medicines to strengthen your bones if needed. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you can live a long and satisfying life, but like other conditions, knowing the risks and treatments are key.
For more information:
- Mayo Clinic – Bone Health Tips to Keep Your Bones Healthy
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: Are You At Risk?
- Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You