Preventing hip fractures due to osteoporosis
It's a silent thief that can slowly rob you of precious bone mass. Without any noticeable warning signs, this bone disease can cause fractures from minor bumps and falls or through everyday movements such as bending, coughing or sneezing.
Osteoporosis may be a familiar term, but there is a reason why it is dubbed the "silent disease." Many individuals are unaware of the debilitating effect osteoporosis can have on their skeletal system until it's too late.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle and more susceptible to fractures and breaks.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 44 million Americans, 68 percent of whom are women. One out of every two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. This represents more than 1.5 million broken bones annually.
Are you at risk for osteoporosis?
Many associate osteoporosis with the elderly. While the disease does affect older adults, it can strike at any age. Symptoms are not as obvious, so you need to realize factors that can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.
The following are some risk factors for osteoporosis:
- Age (more common for those 50 and older)
- Race and ethnicity (people in the U.S. who are Caucasian or of Asian or Latino descent are more likely to develop osteoporosis)
- Family history of osteoporosis
- Low body weight
- History of broken bones/fractures
- Cigarette smoking
- Alcohol abuse
- Lack of calcium and vitamin D in diet
Gender is another major risk factor. Osteoporosis affects women, especially over age 50, more often than men. The leading cause of osteoporosis in women is a drop in estrogen at the time of menopause.
"Estrogen preserves bone mass," says Adrienne Hollander, MD, Virtua rheumatologist. "When women start losing estrogen, there is a rapid decline in bone density. When estrogen levels become too low, we see fractures more often."
Men, on the other hand, start with higher bone density. "Men typically get osteoporosis 10 years later than women on average," says Dr. Hollander.
By the age of 65 to 70, men and women lose bone mass at the same rate.
What should you do to prevent osteoporosis?
"It's a lifelong process to prevent osteoporosis," says Dr. Hollander. "The food you eat and the things you do have an impact on the strength of your bones. If you have children, it's important to help them make healthy choices to reduce their risks later on in life."
Here are some following tips on how to prevent osteoporosis.
Increase calcium and vitamin D in your diet. You should consume at least 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 - 1,000 international units of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. Milk usually is fortified with vitamin D and has 100 IU of vitamin D per cup (8 ounces). Your doctor may also recommend a supplement to ensure you receive the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D. Some high-calcium foods include:
- Ice cream
- Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli and collard greens
Add weight-bearing exercises into your fitness regimen. Some people mistake weight-bearing exercises as those that involve lifting free weights. Actually, weight-bearing exercises are movements and activities in which your skeletal system (bones) support your weight. Some of these exercises include:
- Jumping rope
- Stair climbing
- Playing tennis
"Weight-bearing exercises stimulate the bone to grow and become stronger," says Dr. Hollander. "We encourage people to buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 paces a day. Even if you are home or work in an office, you should try to walk 10,000 paces a day. This daily distance can go a long way in helping you prevent osteoporosis."
Avoid the following which decrease calcium absorption and can lead to porous bones later in life:
- Excessive alcohol
- Excessive caffeine
- Dark colas
Take vitamins that have magnesium and vitamin K. Both work with calcium to build bones.
Prescription medications can help prevent osteoporosis or halt its effect. Please consult with your doctor to see which medications may benefit you.
Get tested now if you have risk factors
A bone mineral density test (BMD) can help determine the extent of bone loss. A BMD test is used to:
- Detect low bone density before a person breaks a bone
- Predict a person's chances of breaking a bone in the future
- Confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis when a person has already broken a bone
- Determine whether a person's bone density is increasing, decreasing or remaining stable (the same)
- Monitor a person's response to treatment
Virtua uses a leading-edge technology in BMD testing called the Lunar iDXA. It helps doctors detect, diagnose and monitor treatment of osteoporosis and also enables clinicians to assess body composition and fat distribution for a more accurate diagnosis of bone density. Bone mineral density tests are painless, safe, and require no preparation on your part.
It's important to talk to your doctor to see if you would benefit from this screening, but the following groups of people should have a test every two years:
- All women age 65 and older
- Younger postmenopausal women with risk factors for osteoporosis
- Postmenopausal women who have had a fracture