I have been doing osteoporosis screening and education for many years. Once again it is the month to focus on prevention of osteoporosis. As I began to write this article, I began to review the statements produced by the national organizations focused on this disabling disease. Unfortunately, the statistics have not improved, but the incidence has increased.
For example, The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) states the following:
*Millions of Americans – 54 million to be exact – have low bone density or osteoporosis. In fact, about one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
*A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined. And a man age 50 or older is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.
*The unfortunate fact about osteoporosis is there are no warning signs or symptoms. Unless one is proactive and gets recommended screening, a fracture (broken bone) may announce the presence of this disease.
*Osteoporosis is basically a disease of imbalance. Bone is constantly changing. When the new bone making cells don’t keep up with those breaking down old bone, the skeleton is at risk. A fracture happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. As a result, your bones become fragile and may break from a minor fall or, in serious cases, even from sneezing or bumping into furniture.
*The good news is that early detection of low bone mass can signal a need for action that can prevent future pain and disability.
*Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help slow or stop the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures.
*Now, there are also a variety of medications that can slow bone loss or actually re-build bone.
*So…..What to do? I recommend getting informed, make lifestyle adjustments as indicated, get screened, seek treatment as needed and prevent falls. Credible resources on line are listed at the end of this article. Look them up and take action!
NOF recommends the following three steps for bone health:
1. Aim to get the recommended daily amount of calcium you need from food first and supplement only as needed to make up for any shortfall. There is no benefit to taking more calcium than the recommended daily amount and too much may be harmful. Vitamin D may not be present at adequate levels in food, so you may need to take a supplement to get the recommended amount of vitamin D.
2. Maintain an overall healthy lifestyle by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercising and not smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
3. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, work with your healthcare provider to determine an appropriate treatment plan. This may include medication, as well as counseling on consuming a bone healthy diet rich in both calcium and vitamin D that includes the amounts recommended, and exercise regimen. Follow your plan and consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your treatment.
Resource Recommendation: The National Osteoporosis Foundation
Sharon Baker, BSN, MN, CWHNP, is a member of the Georgia Commission on Women. She is also President & Founder of WIN.