It’s easy to overlook one of your body’s most important structures until you experience a fracture or noticeable changes in posture. Thin and brittle bones are most commonly associated with the post-menopausal years and aging beyond 65, but bone loss actually begins long before your symptoms become noticeable.
The actions you take now will strongly affect your odds of developing osteoporosis – a common and potentially debilitating bone condition. Empowering yourself with personalized healthcare will help actively prevent bone loss and minimize progression in the case of disease.
A Silent But Largely Preventable Disease
Your bones are complex living organs, and they change shape and composition in order to meet the needs of your body. But when certain factors are present during these transitions, your body may not be able to build up enough bone to replace what was naturally broken down – creating susceptibility to painful fractures.
While genetics can play a role in the formation of osteoporosis, your lifestyle habits, hormone levels, and certain medications can all be proactively managed to protect your bone health.
Who’s most at risk?
Unfortunately, no one escapes the risk of bone loss – both women and men develop osteoporosis. But women carry the most risk and begin losing bone mass at an earlier age.
The risk is even higher for women who:
- Are over 65
- Are post-menopausal
- Had an early onset of menopause
- Weigh less than 127 pounds
- Are of Caucasian or Asian race
- Are a smoker and/or a heavy drinker
- Have a personal history of fracture (after 50 years of age)
- Have a maternal family history of fractures or osteoporosis
Steps You Can Take to Lower Your Risk
Don’t wait – what you do today impacts your bone health as you age.
- Get Adequate Calcium Intake – the old adage is true; calcium builds strong bones. The best sources are dietary, most specifically dairy, dark leafy greens, canned fish, and fortified cereal. Supplements also support healthy levels – but consult your provider. Your ideal intake amount depends on your age, menopausal stage, and pregnancy.
- Monitor Your Vitamin D levels – without this crucial vitamin, your body can’t properly absorb calcium. Eating fatty fish, getting out in the sunshine, and taking supplements can help maintain healthy levels.
- Engage in Weight Bearing Exercise – walking, jogging, hiking, tennis, and dancing all help build up your bones. Check in with your provider before starting a new routine.
- Avoid Crash Diets and Undernutrition – the vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein all play a key role in protecting against bone loss.
- Seek Support to Stop Smoking – nicotine slows bone cell growth, reduces bone strengthening estrogen, and decreases your absorption of calcium.
- Take It Easy on Alcohol and Caffeine – both can reduce your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
Early Detection Is Key
Talk to your provider – you don’t have to wait until you have a fracture or a formal diagnosis to test your bone density.
DEXA Scan – the gold standard for measuring bone density, this x-ray is painless and emits minimal radiation as it calculates the amount of vitamins and minerals within a bone segment. It can show early warning signs for disease as well as confirm a diagnosis.
Who should have a DEXA scan?
It’s recommended that you schedule a scan if:
- You’re 65 or older
- You’re of menopausal age with risk factors
- You’re postmenopausal under the age of 65 with risk factors
- You have a family history of fractures/osteoporosis
- You break a bone after age 50
- You already have a diagnosis of osteoporosis
- You’ve had height loss of ½ inch per year
- You’ve had a total height loss of 1 1/2 inches from your original height
Getting a scan can be both simple and affordable; your insurance will most likely cover the cost if you’re eligible to be screened.
Treatment Can Stop Disease Progression
If you have signs of disease or have already developed osteoporosis, medication along with lifestyle changes can help slow down or stop further loss. Your provider may prescribe one of many options, which typically include bisphosphonates and hormonal therapies.
Living well with osteoporosis is possible – by engaging in treatment and seeking support, you can live a full, active life.
Proactive and Personalized Care
At Seven Hills we practice with the belief that healthcare is a partnership – and together we can create a plan of care that recognizes your individual needs.
Take a crucial step towards protecting your bone health and connect with a supportive provider at one of our 15 neighborhood locations.