For the first three decades of your life, your bones are in a constant state of renewal. By the time “people enter their 40s and 50s, more bone may be broken down than is replaced” (National Institute on Aging). Osteoporosis is a condition that occurs when new bone growth doesn’t keep up with bone loss. It results in weakened and brittle bones – making them more susceptible to fractures, especially in the hip and wrist.
Signs to be wary of include back pain, loss of height, stooped posture and bones that break easier than expected. Per the Mayo Clinic, “white and Asian women – especially older women who are past menopause – are at highest risk.” The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention state that 5.1% of men and 24.5% of women 65 and older have osteoporosis of the neck or spine.
Risks of Osteoporosis
While everyone is at risk for osteoporosis, there are some unchangeable factors that increase your chances of developing the condition, including:
- Sex: Women are at a higher risk than men.
- Age: Your risk increases with age.
- Ethnicity: Those of Caucasian and Asian descent are at a higher risk.
- Hormone Levels: Osteoporosis is more common in those with lowered sex hormones, which is why the reduction in estrogen at menopause increases a woman’s risk.
- Medical Conditions: Certain medical problems, including cancer, lupus and kidney disease, have been linked to a greater chance of receiving an osteoporosis diagnosis.
Bone Loss Prevention
No matter how old you are, you can still take steps to prevent bone loss and keep you standing tall.
Many older adults are at risk for malnutrition due to a variety of causes, like less appetite, but being underweight can increase your risk of bone loss and fractures. In older adults, it is recommended to have a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 27, rather than under 25. Work with your physician to ensure you are at an ideal weight for your body.
Calcium is essential for bone health. Women older than 50 and men older than 70 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium. Calcium can be found in low-fat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, and some calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice. In addition, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. To get enough vitamin D for bone health, sometimes a supplement is needed. You can find out more about your Vitamin D levels from a simple blood test.
No matter your age, exercise will benefit your bones. It is recommended that strength training exercises be combined with weight-bearing and balance exercises. Strength exercises, like weights, help the muscles and bones, especially in your arms and upper spine. Weight-bearing exercises, including walking, affect the bones in the lower half of your body. Balance exercises, such as tai chi or yoga, reduce risk of falls. While swimming and cycling are good cardiovascular exercises, they don’t improve bone health because they are not weight-bearing.
Even if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you can still do modified exercise to prevent further bone loss.
Another great way to take care of your bones is by taking steps to prevent falls. Easy ways to prevent falls include wearing properly fitting clothes, no slippery socks or flip flops, removing all loose rugs, and installing aids like handrails or stairlifts where appropriate.
Diagnosing & Treating Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis and bone loss can be diagnosed through a bone density machine that uses a low-dose X-ray to scan the minerals in your bones. The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that high-risk women 65 and under and all women 65 and older undergo screening for osteoporosis.
As with any diagnosis, treatment is unique to each patient. Depending on your risk, treatment may include medication or lifestyle modifications.
Consult with your primary care physician to determine your unique risk for osteoporosis and if you should add any supplements to your daily routine. After obtaining an order from your physician, schedule a bone density exam at a MemorialCare Breast Center by calling (562) 933-7880. With locations in Long Beach and Los Alamitos both offering the most advanced bone density machine, you have access to the latest technology close to home.