What is Osteoporosis and How to Maintain Bone Health

December 14, 2022 | Tags: Healthy Outlooks Wellness

Overwhelmed by the idea of osteoporosis? It all comes down to calcium.

What is Osteoporosis?

“Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones become weak because they do not have enough calcium,” said Dr. Dwight McFadden, Assistant Medical Director at Medical Mutual. “That lack of calcium makes it easier for them to break.”

While osteoporosis affects both and men women, it’s more common in women. As we age, our bones lose calcium, and the bone mass decreases. Women need the hormone estrogen to keep their bones strong, but estrogen levels drop with age, too. Medications such as steroids can affect calcium levels in the bones, as well, leaving individuals more susceptible to osteoporosis.

Ensure You Are Getting Enough Calcium

“We can look at our bones as a bank,” McFadden said. “Up until our late 20s or early 30s, we are primarily putting calcium into our bone bank. But after that, we start withdrawing.”

According to McFadden, getting regular exercise and consuming calcium-rich diets with foods such as dairy products, soybeans, dark green leafy vegetables and canned salmon are great deposits into your bone bank. It’s also beneficial to get an adequate dose of vitamin D, whether you choose to spend time outdoors in the sun or take a supplement. Smoking cigarettes or unnecessary steroids, however, are withdrawals.

Osteoporosis Detection and Treatment Plans

While osteoporosis can be uncovered by an abnormal result in an unrelated X-ray or CT scan, it is most often identified through a scheduled screening. Women should schedule bone density tests every two years beginning at age 65, or earlier in post-menopausal women with risk factors. Men should begin scheduling theirs at age 70. For those who regularly take steroids or with increased risk of osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend starting screenings earlier.

Once osteoporosis is diagnosed, medications can be prescribed to slow the rate of bone loss, and various hormones can promote bone growth, prevent additional bone loss and increase bone density. Your doctor may also recommend a calcium supplement with vitamin D.

Fall Risk and Prevention

With osteoporosis comes added risk of falls. In fact, McFadden said, osteoporosis can become so severe that its leads to fractures while walking, which will cause an individual to fall.

“Most importantly, people with osteoporosis who fall are more likely to break bones, such as ribs or a hip,” he added.

Because of the added risk, it’s important for individuals with osteoporosis to prevent falls. Start by removing trip hazards like throw rugs and standing up slowly to prevent a drop in blood pressure, which can result in lightheadedness. Limit your intake of alcohol as well. Work with your healthcare provider to get your vision and hearing checked and talk to them about any medications you might be taking that could increase your risk of falls. Improving your strength and balance through physical activity helps, too. McFadden recommends yoga or tai chi.

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