Osteoporosis affects millions of people who are then at greater risk for broken bones in the event of a fall. Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that makes them weak and prone to breakage.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation 54 million Americans have osteoporosis or low bone mass and one in two women and up to one in four men over age 50 will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis.
May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month and a time to learn more about how to prevent the disease and live a healthy live after a diagnosis.
No Bones About It
There are a number of factors that make some people at greater risk for osteoporosis: women over the age of 50, of a slender build and with a family history of the disease are the most susceptible.
One of the main reasons that women have osteoporosis more than men (20 percent of those affected by osteoporosis are men, according the National Osteoporosis Foundation) is due to their loss of estrogen after menopause in their 50s. The loss of estrogen affects bone strength.
Diet, exercise and lifestyle habits such as smoking can also impact osteoporosis risk. In addition, many chronic conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, COPD, and more, can increase the risk for osteoporosis. There are many medications that can increase a person’s risk for osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends talking with your health care provider about this possible side effect.
Bone Up on Osteoporosis Facts
Experts agree that weight-bearing exercise, as well as activities like yoga that can help with balance, are beneficial before developing osteoporosis, and recommend checking with a doctor if you already have the condition and want to start a new exercise regimen.
A calcium-rich diet—especially when combined with Vitamin D—is beneficial in preventing osteoporosis. Fruits and vegetables are also good for bone health. Habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and not exercising can lead to osteoporosis.
People with osteoporosis can still live healthy and active lives, all while decreasing their fall risks. Tai Chi is recommended for exercise because it does not include as much twisting and bending of the spine as other stretching activities, but it still helps with balance. Good balance depends in part on being able to see—such as the accurate height of a curb—and hear properly, so experts encourage people with osteoporosis to get both eyesight and hearing tested to also ensure proper balance.
For those diagnosed with osteoporosis, make changes in the home to ensure greater safety and less likelihood of a fall:
- Install grab bars in the bathroom for easier rising and sitting to and from the toilet or shower.
- Get non-skid pads underneath all carpet and rugs or remove loose rugs that might be tripped over.
- Add nightlights in the bathroom and bedroom where you are most likely to walk in the dark.
- Always use the handrail when going up or down a stairway.
- Clear any clutter that could be a fall hazard and make walkways clear.
A diagnosis of osteoporosis may cause a person anxiety and impact their social life, but it is possible to live a full and happy life with this disease.