Osteoporosis is a serious disease, affecting an estimated 54 million U.S. adults are at risk for osteoporosis and low bone mass. But just what is osteoporosis and what can you do about it? Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.
Literally speaking, osteoporosis means “porous bone.” If you viewed health bone under a microscope, it would look like a honeycomb. But for someone with osteoporosis occurs, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb are much larger than in healthy bone. As bones become less dense, they weaken and are more likely to break. If you’re 50 years old or older and have broken a bone, then ask your doctor or healthcare provider about a bone density test. Why? Because studies indicate that approximately one in two women and up to one in four men age 50 and older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is Serious
A serious complication of osteoporosis is breaking a bone, which is most likely to occur in the hip, spine or wrist. Osteoporosis can also cause permanent pain, as well as a loss in height. Should the bones in the spine – or vertebrae – become affected by osteoporosis, the result is often a stooped or hunched posture. What’s more, osteoporosis may limit mobility, which often leads to feelings of isolation or depression. Additionally, 20% of seniors who break a hip die within one year from either complications related to the broken bone itself or the surgery to repair it. Many patients require long-term nursing home care.
How to Prevent Osteoporosis
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, focusing on weight-bearing and strength-training exercises. Weight-bearing exercises help your body make new bone, and strength training results in increased bone strength.
- Get enough calcium. If you don’t get enough calcium every day through diet or supplements, your body will break down your bones to get the necessary calcium from there – which increases your bone loss. You can increase your calcium intake through low-fat or fat-free dairy products, calcium fortified juices and food, sardines with bones, certain vegetables, soy products, and calcium supplements.
- Get plenty of vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium into the bloodstream. Ten minutes of sun each day can increase your level of vitamin D. Supplements and diet can help, too.
- Limit your alcohol consumption, as drinking more than two drinks daily has been linked to an increased risk of bone loss.
- Quit smoking or don’t start, as cigarette smoking doubles the chance of bone loss and fractures.
- Stay away from cola drinks, as studies have shown that colas, more than other carbonated soft drinks, contribute to bone loss. No one is quite sure why this happens, but it may be that the extra phosphorus in cola drinks binds with calcium and prevents it from being absorbed in the body. Another theory is that people who drink lots of cola drink less milk, which is a calcium-rich drink.
What If I Am Already at Risk?
If you have already experienced bone loss or you are at an increased risk of bone loss, then one solution is medication. There are osteoporosis drugs available that can help maintain or build bone. These drugs are often recommended for people, especially women, at high risk of developing osteoporosis or bone fractures. To find out if medication is right for you, just call us at 843-815-6468.