Osteoporosis is a medical condition that affects nearly 54 million Americans today. All adults are at risk of developing this disorder, which causes the gradual loss of bone density and strength, as they get older. Osteoporosis can easily lead to broken bones and, since you can’t feel your bones weakening, it is known as a silent disease.
For older people, the first symptom of osteoporosis is a broken bone, often in the hip, spine and wrist. However, osteoporosis can also limit mobility and cause people to lose height by affecting the vertebrae (bones of the spine), resulting in a stooped or hunched posture.
Those with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis include older women (over 50 years of age); people with a small, thin frame; and those with a family history of osteoporosis or who take certain medications.
While some risk factors cannot be changed, some can be prevented. Here are some tips to help strengthen your bones or effectively manage the condition:
- Eat a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, including low fat or fat-free dairy products, sardines and salmon with bones, and dark green vegetables. Calcium strengthens your bones, while vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium in the body.
- Exercise. This can include aerobic activity (e.g., walking, dancing, jogging, climbing stairs) and strength training (e.g., using free weights, weight machines and elastic resistance bands).
- Not drinking and smoking. Limit your consumption of alcohol (less than two drinks per day) and quit smoking.
- Fall-proof your home. Remove anything at home that can be a tripping or slipping hazard (e.g., cords, throw rugs), avoid wet floors, install handrails and grab bars, and use non-slip items in the bathroom.
- Bone Density Tests. If you are 50 or older, or at risk of developing osteoporosis, talk to your health care provider about whether receiving a bone density test is right for you. This X-ray examines the hardness of your bones and helps in diagnosing osteoporosis and predicting your risk of fractures.
It’s never too early or too late to protect your bones from osteoporosis. To learn more, visit your health care provider. For a list of providers near you, please visit Carroll Hospital’s physician directory.