The VALUE in knowing where we stand in the fight against Osteoporosis early on, so that we can “EXERCISE” preventative measures still under our control, is truly INVALUABLE!
As Osteoporosis develops gradually, it can easily be thought of as a condition that affords us “plenty of time to think about,” or “get around to managing” in our so-called golden years when we think we will have more time. However, there are obvious benefits to knowing, as well as progressively significant risks to not knowing where we stand regarding the development of this condition.
Osteoporosis, often called “the silent thief,” can rob a person of bone mass at a steady rate for many years without any tell-tale signs or symptoms until experiencing a fracture. In fact, if osteoporosis is first diagnosed at the onset of a fracture, we can be assured that the condition is already quite advanced. So, the earlier you educate yourself, the more empowered you become in reaching the goals of your best-lived life. And in doing so, you possess great potential to empower those around you to do the same.
With increase in age, come increase in risk. Women and men over 50, especially anyone over 50 who has experienced what is considered a “fragility” fracture or “low trauma” fracture, (defined as one resulting from a fall from standing height or equivalent degree of trauma) are considered at higher risk.
While osteoporosis affects both men and women, the rate at which it occurs for each differs. Lowered estrogen in women after menopause, increases the rate of bone loss, whereas bone loss in men starts at age 65+. It is estimated that one in three women and one in five men will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Individuals whose medical history indicates other risk factors for low bone mineral density, future fractures and falls including:
3. Calcium Intake/Diet
Not getting enough calcium through your diet? Your body begins robbing calcium from your bones to serve all its’ other necessary functions, taking a toll on your overall bone health. In cases where unavoidable diet restrictions may warrant a calcium supplement, your healthcare provider should be consulted.
As vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium, to assist your body in processing it for the building of strong bones, in the case where medical conditions involve poor absorption or other risk factors/conditions associated with vitamin D, you should consult your healthcare provide to determine whether a higher dose than recommended may be necessary.
Research indicates that those who consume 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day, on a regular basis, are at an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Increased consumption can also contribute to an increased risk for falls and is also often associated with poor nutrition which also affects bone health.
6. Physical Activity and Exercise
Being sedentary, can directly impact bone health. In contrast, performing the appropriate amount and type of exercise can help to protect your spine, slow the rate of bone loss, build muscle strength, improve balance, and assist with the management of other health condition and overall wellness. All of which can help manage osteoporosis and prevent falls.
7. Height Loss
Losing height as we age can be a warning sign of a spine fracture, and regular measurements can be a valuable tracking tool. Because 66% of spine fractures are painless, you may not even be aware of a broken bone in your back. Therefore, knowing how tall you are and having your healthcare professional measure you annually, is important as you age, especially in those 50 and over.
8. Cigarette Smoking
In addition to being associated with numerous other health risks, it has long been established that smoking can have a negative impact on your bone health. Your healthcare provider can be a great resource for strategies to assist you in making a lifestyle change that lasts.
9. Family History
If someone in your immediate family has a history of osteoporosis, you risk of developing the condition is also increased. In addition, having a parent who has had a hip fracture, means that you may be at higher risk of experiencing the same.
Long-term use of certain medications, including glucocorticoids, can have side effects of increased bone loss and therefore increased fracture risk. The effect of some medications on balance can also increase the risk of falls and fractures.
11. Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, gastric bypass surgery, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or chronic liver disease are also known to be associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. Additional effects of these conditions can as well increase the risk of falling, and therefore, incidents of fractures.
12. History of Falls
Finally, one of the best predictors of a future fall is history of a previous fall. In fact, if you’ve experienced a fall in the past 12 months, your risk of sustaining another fall increases by as much as 3x. Individuals with gait and balance issues, are among those at highest risk, and at the very least should be assessed for the safe prescription of appropriate assistive devices and other supports.
If you or someone you care about would benefit from being assessed further for risk of osteoporosis or fracture, please don’t hesitate to make that call. A thorough medical history, objective examination, and referral for an x-ray and/or bone mineral density testing, as determined necessary by your health care provider can make all the difference. As a team you can come up with a plan, with achievable goals that can be sustained throughout the lifespan. It’s never too early, but it’s also never too late!
Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts with more specifics regarding available strategies to help you play a more active role in the management of your bone health; and learning the basics of Bone Fit Canada’s highly beneficial “Too Fit to Fracture” Program for Managing Osteoporosis Through Exercise.
~ Elizabeth Stefanyshyn-Alonso BScPT, FCAMPT, Physiotherapist