May 16, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)
If you don’t know about osteoporosis, this month is an excellent time to get informed. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. So, let’s start with the basics. We all have bones. You may not really ever think about them until you break one, but bones are living tissue. They are made up of collagen, calcium-phosphate mineral complexes and living bone cells. From the time you’re a child you are losing old bone and forming new bone. In younger people bone is formed faster than it is lost. And as you grow, you approach what’s called peak bone mass. This happens somewhere between the ages of 18 and 25 and is when you have produced the most amount of bone in your lifetime.
Sometime around midlife you start to lose bone faster than you make new bone. Women can lose more bone after menopause. As a matter of fact, 52 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis. This can happen to men too. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) “Men over 50 are likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis, and each year 80,000 men will break a hip.”
What is Osteoporosis?
The word Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone.” Picture the density of your bone magnified. Healthy bones would appear like a honeycomb with smaller spaces (denser). If you’re suffering from osteoporosis, these spaces are much bigger (less dense). Less dense bones are weaker bones and are more susceptible to breaks. Breaks in older people are a very serious issue that can cause them pain that may last a long time or not go away at all. People with osteoporosis can appear to be hunched over. This is because the bones in their spine collapse.
Osteoporosis in Women
Bones in women are thinner by nature. When a woman reaches menopause she produces less estrogen. The estrogen helps to protect your bones. That’s why women are at more of a risk for osteoporosis after menopause. According to NOF, It’s estimated that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 80% of them are women. Additionally, women are likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis after the age of 50.
Osteoporosis in Men
According to NOF, one in four men over 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis and approximately two million men already have the disease. When men break a hip they are more likely than women to die from complications linked to the break within a year.
How to Help Prevent Osteoporosis
While it’s true that there are uncontrollable factors, such as age, the good news is there are things that you can do to help prevent osteoporosis. You’ve probably heard about the importance of getting more calcium for your bones. You heard right. Getting more calcium and vitamin D will help make your bones denser. You can take Vitamin D and Calcium supplements and also try to eat foods rich in these vital nutrients. Milk, yogurt and cheese are good sources of calcium. Fish, like sardines and salmon, are high in calcium. Salmon, mackerel and tuna are also high in Vitamin D. When choosing vegetables, kale, okra, and broccoli are a few that are high in calcium.
What to Avoid or Cut Back On
Alcohol can lead to bone loss. Try and limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks per day. The caffeine in coffee and tea interferes with calcium absorption. Try to drink less than three of these per day. Some reports show that the caffeine and phosphorous in soda can cause bone loss. If you’re going to drink these beverages, try to up your calcium intake even more to compensate.
Living with Osteoporosis
If you already have osteoporosis it’s important to try to maintain your balance so that you don’t fall and be aware of your surroundings. Wear low-heeled shoes with good traction.
Try to maintain a good posture, so that you are not bending forward. You can do posture and balancing exercises to help accomplish this.
Avoid hazards that could cause you to fall. Avoid holes in the sidewalk or loose items on the floor, when walking. Keep your path clear, so there’s nothing you could trip over. Look into using a walker to help balance you.
Try to get exercise that helps you maintain a good posture. You can discuss special exercises for the muscles called the erector spinae muscles. These muscles are on either side of your spine and help to strengthen the spine. You can discuss these exercises with your Doctor.
Try to stay positive, even if you break a bone. It can be a long painful recovery, but the power of positive thinking can really help you.
To learn more about osteoporosis, including prevention and good information on living with
Osteoporosis, tips and exercises, you can go to nof.org