We all lose bone mass as we age. In your thirties, you begin to lose more bone mass than your body can create. By the time you are fifty, your risk of osteoporosis increases significantly. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that more than 12 million people over the age of fifty have osteoporosis.
Women face a much higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men. There are steps you can take to slow and perhaps prevent osteoporosis.
Prevention Begins Early
Physical activity and a healthy diet during the preteen and teen years go a long way to reduce the risk of osteoporosis in adulthood.
- Calcium rich diet. Women with osteoporosis are typically low in calcium. You should begin the habit of including calcium in your diet as soon as possible.
- Healthy lifestyle. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption increase your risk of developing bone disease.
- Be active. Regular exercise is essential for healthy bones. Keep your exercise routine diverse and make weight lifting, walking and jogging each a part of your program.
- Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You are better off getting vitamin D as part of your diet than by taking vitamin D supplements. Eggs, many types of fish, and shiitake mushrooms are good sources. Your body produces vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight. Mega-doses of vitamin D supplements are a bad idea and can lead to vitamin D toxicity (hypervitaminosis D).
Post-menopausal women should be tested for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Osteopenia means bone loss, but not to the point that you are a high fracture risk. Osteoporosis is a serious disease that has no symptoms until a fracture occurs. Osteopenia is an early indicator that you are at high risk of developing osteoporosis. Neither condition is curable, but you may be able to stop osteopenia from becoming osteoporosis.
- Know your medicines. The extended use of some medications, such as cortcosteroids and anticonvulsants, may increase your risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of any medications you are taking.
- Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Your doctor may prescribe medication to slow bone loss and help rebuild bone.
- Stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even with a diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis, you can take steps to slow bone loss and reduce your risk of fracture.
- Treating a fracture. If you do experience a fracture, your doctor may put you on pain medication, bed rest and physical therapy.
New procedures are being developed to help people living with osteoporosis. Dr. Orlando Ortiz, of Winthrop University Hospital, is treating spine fractures with a method called balloon kyphoplasty. A balloon is inflated inside the fractured bone. The cavity is then filled with a thick bone cement.
While osteoporosis is not curable, it is manageable and treatable. You are not alone and can take control of your health and your life by staying informed.