Statistics tell important stories. Here’s one everybody – and every “body” – needs to be aware of: According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience a bone fracture related to osteoporosis at some point in their lives.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. Raising awareness about the condition can help you learn how to lower your risk.
The good news: There’s plenty you can do.
What is osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a common condition that causes bones to become porous and weak, making them highly susceptible to fractures. In advanced stages, even something as simple as picking up an object or coughing can cause a bone to break.
Osteopenia, which affects approximately half of all Americans age 50 or older, is a related but generally less severe condition. If you think of your bone health on a spectrum, with normal bone health on one end and osteoporosis on the other end, osteopenia would lie in the middle.
Facts about osteoporosis
• Approximately 80 percent of bone fractures sustained in people ages 50 and older are due to osteoporosis.
• Sustaining one osteoporotic bone fracture increases the risk of sustaining another fracture by as much as 86 percent.
• Risk factors for osteoporosis include smoking, genetics, advancing age, long-term use of certain medications, excessive alcohol intake, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of healthy sun exposure and being underweight.
• It’s possible to have osteoporosis for years and not know it, because there aren’t always signs or symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can include brittle nails, receding gum lines, height loss, stooped posture, debility and frequent aches, cramps and pains.
• Osteoporosis can affect any bone in the body, but especially bones of the spine, hip and wrist. Every 22 seconds, someone in the world 50 years old and up sustains a vertebral fracture due to osteoporosis.
• Osteoporosis and its related health consequences costs the U.S. billions of dollars every year. This number is expected to increase as the population ages.
Although most people achieve their peak bone mass in their late 20s, it’s possible to slow the loss of bone mineral density and maximize skeletal health later in life.
The following strategies can protect you from osteoporosis and the significant physical, financial and psychosocial effects it can cause.
• Focus on a bone-healthy diet. This means eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts and legumes, and avoiding foods that promote inflammation. Pro-inflammatory foods tend to be fried, sweetened and/or processed, such as soft drinks, candy and processed meat. Additionally, talk to your doctor about bone-healthy supplements such as calcium (which keeps your bones strong) and vitamin D (which helps your body absorb calcium).
• Consult with a physical therapist. Physical activity – including aerobics, strength training and other types of weight-bearing exercise – preserves bone mineral density. Regular exercise also maintains your balance, strength and flexibility, which can reduce the risk of falls as you age.
But what happens if you have chronic pain or a nagging injury, or if you’re just not sure what exercises to do? In these cases, a physical therapist can be an invaluable resource. PTs are experts in human movement and are explicitly trained in exercise prescription and injury treatment and prevention.
A PT can show you which exercises are the most effective for you, teach you how to perform them appropriately and address any other factors that may be limiting your tolerance to activity or increasing your risk for osteoporosis.
• Get outside. Approximately 10 minutes of sunscreen-free sun exposure per day helps your body produce vitamin D, which is essential for keeping your bones strong.
Bone health workshop
PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness has scheduled a Buff Bones Workshop June 18, a medically endorsed, research-backed, full-body workout designed to improve the strength and health of bones and joints. A registered dietitian will provide nutrition advice. For more information, visit physiofitpt.com/classes-workshops/#buff-bones.
Kim Gladfelter is owner, physical therapist and Pilates instructor at PhysioFit Physical Therapy and Wellness, 1000 Fremont Ave., Suite 108, Los Altos. For more information, call 887-6046 or visit physiofitpt.com.