Bones are important. They give our body structure and provide support for our muscles. They protect our organs and are a storage facility for calcium and other micro-nutrients vital to bone and body functions.
Many women (men too) are at risk for developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis results from decreased bone mass and deterioration of bone quality, increasing risk of fractures. In fact, 50 percent women over the age of 50 and nearly 25 percent of all men will develop an osteoporosis-related fracture (also called fragility fracture) of their hip, spine, or wrist in their lifetime.
For individuals with a hip fracture, only 40 percent will regain their independence, 20 percent will require long-term care, and up to 25 percent hip fracture patients die within a year of their fracture. Patients with spine or vertebral fractures may not fare much better. A single spine fracture indicates a much higher risk for future fractures at the spine and hip. Vertebral fractures also lead to spine deformity, stress on organs, and limitations of activity.
So who’s at risk? We all are!
Adult women and men continue to lose bone mass with progressing age. However, there are additional factors that increase the risk of developing significant bone loss over time. Some of these risk factors include:
- Excessive alcohol or caffeine intake
- Tobacco use
- Nutritional deficiencies of calcium and Vitamin D
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Family history of a parental hip fracture
- Postmenopausal status in women
- Hormone deficiency in men
- Underlying medical conditions or treatments that lead to bone loss or risk of falls
- Certain ethnicities – Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Caucasian
What you can do about this? Understanding your personal risk for bone loss and fracture is important. You and your healthcare provider can review your risk factors and determine if further screening or testing is needed. In the meantime, you can:
- Limit your alcohol and caffeine use
- Stop smoking
- Improve diet to include calcium-rich and Vitamin D containing foods
Most adults need 1000 -1500 mg of calcium daily, which is best obtained through diet. Vitamin D can be a bit tougher to obtain from foods, but a goal of 1000 IU daily is reasonable.
- Engage in weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise
- Start yoga or Tai Chi for balance and stability
- Minimize trip/fall hazards in your home
If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis or a fragility fracture, your healthcare provider may recommend specific treatments that can include formal physical therapy, nutrition evaluation, and prescription medications.
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: nof.org
- National Bone Health Alliance: nbha.org
- National Institutes of Health (NIH) – Osteoporosis and Related Bone Disease Resource Center: niams.nih.gov