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What You Should Know about Osteoporosis
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month and is the opportune time to talk about this disabling disease. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation approximately 10 million Americans suffer from it and although a majority of them are women, 2 million are men! After age 50, bone loss increases in both sexes. Risk factors include: small bones and thin frame; of Caucasian or Asian descent; have an immediate relative diagnosed with the disease or one who has broken a bone as an adult; post menopausal; high doses of thyroid medication or steroid mediation use (like Prednisone) for three months or more; history of chemotherapy; diet low in calcium; are sedentary; and smoke or drink alcohol in excess. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of getting the disease.
Osteoporosis is a silent stalker. Many people don’t know they have it until they break a bone (typically a hip, wrist, or in the spine) or have a routine bone density test. If the disease has progressed far enough, it can show up on a simple x-ray. It causes fragile bones that can break from something as innocent as a hug or a sneeze. And of course falling is the most damaging of all.
Prevention, although simple, amounts to making life-style changes; an effort that is a life-long commitment. Recommendations include increasing dietary calcium by eating more dairy products, calcium and vitamin D fortified foods (orange juice, milk, cereals, yogurt, and soy), green vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, kale, and turnip greens), and taking calcium with vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is essential for moving calcium into the bones. It has recently grabbed the attention of the medical community as being more valuable than otherwise thought. It is recommended that all women get a base-line vitamin D blood test at age 50. Newer research is looking at the value of all people being screened at a younger age.
A new study funded in part by the USDA Agricultural Research Service suggests that “neutralizing an acid-producing diet may be an important key to reducing bone breakdown, or “turnover”, while aging.” The diet in the study contained nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day (as compared to the 4-5 servings currently recommended). More research is needed before recommending what is referred to as “a safe and low-cost approach” to improving bone health in both older women and men.
Bone density screening is recommended for women starting at age 50. This painless, simple x-ray type test is invaluable in diagnosing the disease. Talk to your primary care practitioner about what testing, diet changes, and supplements are right for you.
Weight bearing exercises (those that work against gravity) like walking, running, weight lifting, dancing, aerobics, tennis, etc. are essential for bone health. Swimming, although providing a good cardiovascular workout, is not a weight bearing exercise and does not afford the same protection.
It is also recommended that alcohol consumption be limited to less than three drinks a day…and of course, stop smoking is crucial.
There are treatments available for those diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Prescription bisphosphonate medications like Boniva, Fosamax, Actonel, and Reclast, help many people. However, they come with side-effects and aren’t for everyone. Physical rehabilitation to improve balance and muscle strength has been shown to lesson the risk of falls and fractures. And following the preventive measures above will help improve bone strength.
With spring on the horizon it is the perfect time to make fresh changes for your good health. Call your friends and schedule daily walks or meet at a gym and work-out.  Incorporate yard work and gardening into your exercise routine. Plant seeds to grow fresh, organic vegetables in your back yard or in container gardens on the deck. Make an appointment with your primary care practitioner for a check-up and schedule a bone density test today. Your good health is important to you and your loved one so do everything you can to protect it.
Blessings ~ Mary

Mary C. Fridley RN, BC/Gero-Resources, LLC. All rights reserved.