It Takes a Village

Both men and women must protect themselves from osteoporosis

Women, especially, need to start right away to prevent osteoporosis, which is a disease that makes your bones full of little holes, like a sponge, and so thin and brittle that they break with even minor injuries.

About half of all Caucasian women aged 50 and over will have an osteoporosis-related break, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF).

But a significant number of men get it, too: about 25 percent.

In fact, more than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 33.6 million have low bone density of the hip, NOF says, and those numbers will go up as the population ages.

These breaks take a physical and emotional toll, and if you have osteoporosis you may want to change your lifestyle to one that’s more careful ( has safety tips).

If you’re only starting to develop osteoporosis, you likely won’t have any symptoms until about age 60, generally speaking.

But eventually you may begin to have back pain or start to stoop. You may discover at your annual check up that you’ve lost height. You may develop what’s called a dowager’s hump, which is a curved upper back. Eventually you may start to experience broken bones with minor injuries, especially in the hip, spine, and wrist. Compression fractures may form in your spine that can be very painful, although sometimes these fractures only produce minor pain.

Osteoporosis has no cure, although treatments do exist. In fact, if you’re diagnosed early you can start treatments that prevent your ever getting a break. Even if a break has occurred, treatments exist to help stave off further fractures.

Still, preventing it in the first place would obviously be the best option. And prevention needs to happen long before you fall and break something that lands you in our great rehab program at Arbor Village.

The most important thing to do, of course, is talk to your doctor about your risks and what you can do to minimize them. Do that before you do anything else, no matter what age you are.

Risk factors include

  • age—each year after we turn about 30, our bodies dissolve and absorb about 0.4 percent of our bone tissue.
  • having thinner and lighter bones, a slighter frame. Women tend to have smaller bones than men; that’s why they’re more likely to get osteoporosis.
  • having a family history of osteoporosis.
  • lifestyle factors, like smoking, heavy alcohol use (though light drinking is associated with higher bone thickness), not exercising, inadequate intake of calcium and Vitamin D, and drinking cola soft drinks.
  • certain medical conditions, such as some thyroid diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, or taking medications used to treat diseases like asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), endometriosis, breast cancer, depression, and many others.

If you’re at risk, and even if you’re not—yet—you might want to discuss some of the following prevention techniques with your doctor as well.

  • Get your recommended amounts of calcium (probably at least 1,200 milligrams) and vitamin D (800-1,000 IU) each day.
  • Engage in regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercise. Weight-bearing exercises include walking, dancing, jogging, stair-climbing, racquet sports, and hiking. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
  • Don’t smoke or drink to excess.
  • When your doctor thinks it’s appropriate, take a bone density test (possibly around age 65 for women and age 70 for men or because your risk factors warrant one sooner).

Osteoporosis can be a life-changing disease. Start now to protect yourself.

 Arbor Village provides long term care and rehabilitation at 310 West Taft in Sapulpa.