How to Prevent Osteoporosis
Tips for Preventing Osteoporosis
Strong bones support our body frame and allow us to move, while protecting our vital organs from injury and allowing us to keep an upright posture.
Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass. Your bones have parts that are porous and resemble a honeycomb. In people with osteoporosis, the spaces in the honeycomb are much bigger, and so there is less structural support. This happens when you lose too much bone mass, make too little bone or both.
With low bone mineral density, your bones become weak and are prone to breaking. As a normal part of body function, our bones are constantly losing old bone material and creating new bone mass. Unfortunately, as you age, you can lose more bone than you form, which leads to weak and brittle bones. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is not easily detected because you cannot feel your bones getting weaker.
Breaking a bone is often a first sign that you may have this condition. The most common areas of bone fracture occur in wrists, spine and hips.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing Osteoporosis?
There are many factors that put you at risk for developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors can be controlled, while others cannot. The risk of osteoporosis is highest amongst women, especially women of Caucasian or Asian descent. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, a woman’s risk of developing osteoporosis equals the risk of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer combined. Women who are post-menopausal are at a higher risk.
A family history of osteoporosis increases your risk of developing this disease. Age also plays a large role – people over the age of 50 years have a higher risk of developing the condition. In addition, having a small and thin body frame with a low body weight is associated with a higher risk for osteoporosis.
Some diseases are known to cause bone loss, so if you have a history of some other conditions, it may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Common diseases associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis include: autoimmune disorders, Celiac disease, diabetes, leukemia, stroke, multiple sclerosis, kidney disease, and cancer. Speak with your physician if you are concerned about your medical history contributing to the development of osteoporosis.
Fortunately, there are many risk factors for osteoporosis that can be modified to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Modifiable factors include: nutrition and diet, lifestyle, activity, smoking, alcohol consumption and weight management.
What Are the Signs of Osteoporosis?
Because there are typically no symptoms in the early stages of osteoporosis, it can be difficult to catch early. Some early signs include back pain and changes in posture. The back pain and forward stooped posture are typically associated with a fracture in the spine. Additionally, if you find you have a bone fracture from an incident that seemed minor then you might suspect osteoporosis. If your parents had a history of fractures later in life, you should suspect osteoporosis.
What Are Treatment Options for Osteoporosis?
A comprehensive treatment program involves medication management, nutritional management, and exercise therapy. Osteoporosis medications are designed to either slow the rate of bone loss or increase the rate of new bone formation. Your doctor will take into consideration your age, sex, and health history when determining what type of medication is most appropriate for your situation.
Nutritional counseling is typically advised for individuals with osteoporosis. By making changes to your diet, you can improve the nutrients to your bones and promote healthy bone mineral growth. Think about your car. If you don’t give it the proper fuel, how is it going to run? Likewise, your bones need calcium, vitamin D and other vitamins and minerals to be able to create new bone mass.
Finally, physical therapy or exercise therapy of some form should be given as part of your treatment program. It is known that weight bearing exercises and resisted strength exercises help to rebuild bone density. A skilled therapist is able to educate you on appropriate and safe exercises.
It is essential to build muscle strength around muscles of the hips and spine to reduce the risk of fracture.
How Does Walking and Physical Activity Improve Osteoporosis?
Weight bearing activities are essential for building new bone. When you walk, run, or lift a weight, you put a healthy stress through your bones, which is a signal for new bone growth.
According to guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control, older adults need at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week and muscle strengthening exercises on two or more days per week. Brisk walking qualifies for moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
Aim to get at least the recommended amount of 150 minutes per week. This may sound like a lot at first, but physical activity can be broken down into 10-20 minute increments. Ideally, you would engage in brisk walking every day. As opposed to jogging, jumping or other high impact forms of weight bearing exercise, little risk is associated with walking. Daily walking is a wonderful form of exercise to improve your bone mass through weight bearing.
How Else Can I Optimize My Bone Health?
You can improve the health of your bones by taking an active role in your health, as well as making improvements in your lifestyle choices. You should ensure that you get enough calcium and vitamin D to promote bone health, as well as eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Avoid too much sodium and caffeine, as these can decrease calcium absorption. It is important to avoid smoking and too much alcohol consumption. Maintaining an active lifestyle is important, as people who are inactive or immobilized are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
Take a self-evaluation to determine if your lifestyle choices, diet and activity levels are where they should be for optimum bone health.
You can take an active role in improving your bone density by minimizing your modifiable risk factors.
I’m Concerned I Might Have Osteoporosis – What Should I Do?
Speak to your physician about your bone health. A medical evaluation to diagnose osteoporosis may involve reviewing your medical history, physical examination, bone density test, and laboratory tests. It may be beneficial to begin a medically supervised program to build muscle strength, balance and wellness. Your physician may recommend physical therapy to improve these limitations.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation is an excellent resource for osteoporosis education and advocacy and can be found at The National Osteoporosis Foundation.org.
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