The increased risk of bone fractures and breaks later in life is often associated with osteoporosis. Over time, this health condition causes the bones to weaken, so they can break easily.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, or you are looking to help a family member with this condition, it’s important to be proactive in minimizing the bone damage in the future.
Our team at Orthopedic Associates is committed to providing full-service care for patients of all ages. Today, we are sharing important information about proactive steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis: The Silent Disease
Most patients with osteoporosis don’t notice changes in their bodies until a bone break occurs. Since there aren’t any warning symptoms, osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease.” Even though you were unaware that your bones were losing strength, it is common for this condition to be present for many years before a diagnosis is made.
While osteoporosis can affect all bones in the body, the bones that break most often are the wrist, hip, and spine (backbone).
Aging and Bone Loss
Bone is made up of living tissue within the body, which means that it is constantly regenerating and changing based on age and current health. When the old bone is broken down, it is replaced with new bone tissue to maintain strength and wellness.
This process continues through the early years of life. Eventually, bone mass stops increasing – usually around the age of 30. When you enter your 40’s and 50’s, it is common for the bone to be breaking down faster than the body can replenish the bone.
A microscopic look into the inside of a bone shows that it is set up in a similar manner as a honeycomb. Osteoporosis causes the spaces within the honeycomb to get bigger, resulting in more space and less bone mass. At the same time, the outside shell of the bone also gets thinner with time. As a result, the bones weaken and you are more susceptible to a fracture or break.
Osteoporosis Risk Factors
This health condition can happen in people of all ages, but it’s most common for older adults to be diagnosed with osteoporosis. Here are a few other risk factors that increase the likelihood of a diagnosis:
- Gender – women have a higher risk than men
- Race – white and Asian women have a higher risk than other demographics
- Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
- Ovary removal before menopause
- Early menopause
- Insufficient levels of calcium and vitamin D
- Sedentary lifestyle
- The use of certain prescription medications
- Small body frame
As a general rule of thumb, women tend to lose bone mass more quickly during the years around menopause. The bone continues indefinitely, but it slows after menopause is done. Men experience slower bone loss. By the age of 65 or 70, bone loss occurs at the same rate for both men and women.
If any of the above risk factors apply to you, then it is smart to be proactive in scheduling regular checkups with your healthcare provider. For example, a bone mineral density scan can be done to determine the current health of your bones.
Can You Die from Osteoporosis?
While osteoporosis is a serious medical condition, most people don’t die from osteoporosis. You can manage without a threat to your overall health and wellbeing.
The biggest risk of fatality lies in complications after surgery, especially when someone breaks a hip. Up to 25% of patients with hip fractures die within 6 – 12 months because of other health conditions that coincide with the surgery including infections, heart attacks, pneumonia, arrhythmias, anesthesia complications, and more.
Premature death can happen when low bone density increases the risk of fractures and falls. If you have osteoporosis, then it is important to be aware of how your body is affected. You need to learn proactive steps for reducing osteoporotic fractures.
Can You Prevent Osteoporosis?
Yes, osteoporosis can be prevented through various lifestyle factors. Keep in mind that bone loss is a natural and expected part of aging. But you can make daily choices that slow the progress and reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis in the future.
The best solution is to start these osteoporosis prevention tips as early as possible.
There are things that you can do at all ages to strengthen your bones, which increases bone health in the future:
- Vitamin D and Calcium: Eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. Leafy green vegetables are also great sources of calcium. Some foods are fortified with calcium such as almond milk, soy milk, bread, and cereal. Few foods contain vitamin D, which is why this fat-soluble vitamin is often added in milk and other dairy products. The best food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
- Supplements: If your food sources aren’t supplying sufficient amounts of vitamin D and calcium, then you might consider taking a high-quality supplement. Dosage varies depending on your age and current health condition, which is why it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before using any supplements.
- Weight-Bearing Exercises: Strength training is important to maintain good health in your muscles and bones. When your body is moving, it stimulates the cells that work to build your bones. For good bone health, it’s best to exercise regularly – including resistance exercises at least 3 or 4 days a week. Options include working your body weight against gravity such as walking, weight training, jogging, hiking, stair climbing, dancing, and tennis. Resistance exercises are those that use the addition of weights or an elastic band such as weight lifting.
- Medication Usage: Talk to your doctor about potential side effects of the medications you are currently taking. If any of these medications have side effects that weaken the bones, then you might be able to find alternative treatment solutions through reduced dosages or other options.
- Smoking and Alcohol: While an occasional drink won’t have an immediate impact on the development of osteoporosis, heavy drinking can play a role in bone loss. Limit your drinking and stop smoking.
Osteoporosis prevention should begin in childhood. But it’s never too late to start. Implementing these changes as soon as possible could be beneficial in slowing the progress of bone loss.
Treatment for Osteoporosis
If you’ve already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then it’s best to avoid activities that could increase the risk of broken bones. Even small movements that twist the spine could potentially be harmful such as toe touches, sit-ups, or swinging a golf club.
You can also talk to a doctor about various treatment options to rebuild the bone. While lifestyle changes can help, sometimes medical intervention is needed. If you’ve lost a lot of bone density, then your daily habits might not be enough to overcome the problem.
It’s also important to be proactive in preventing falls in the home. When the bones are weak, a small fall can result in major medical care because of a broken bone. Not only will you need to go to the hospital, but it might require surgery and being laid up for a time to allow the bone to heal.
Doctors Who Treat Osteoporosis in Flower Mound and Denton, TX
For more information about osteoporosis treatment and prevention, our team is here to assist. Contact us at Orthopedic Associates to schedule an appointment.