Better Senior Living: Improved Wellness with Osteoporosis

In recognition of National Bone and Joint Awareness month, The Cedars is focusing on osetoporosis and how to improve your ‘bone health’.

     Osteoporosis is the most prevalent bone condition among Americans with nearly half of all women and one-quarter of men likely to suffer from its’ effects in their lifetime.  Each year, approximately one and a half million Americans suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis.  Fifty years ago, physicians believed that weak bones were a natural part of aging, but today we know that we can do something about it.  It is important to remember that you are never too old to do something to improve your bone health.

     Osteoporosis is debilitating, reduces freedom of movement, and can cause a high incidence of hip and spinal fractures.  Prevention of the condition and patient education is key to reducing the problems associated with osteoporosis.  The goal is to reach people prior to an injury so that they can take the necessary steps to prevent bone disease and injury.

     One major thing you can do to improve your bone health is to exercise. Clearance by your physician and an evaluation by a physical therapist should first be performed for safety to exercise. Weight bearing exercise is best – walking, even short distances, is a great way to maintain mobility and bone density.  Isometric, resistance, and range-of-motion exercises are very helpful in strengthening muscles to keep you more flexible, and improve muscle tone.

     Not smoking is a lifestyle choice that reduces our risk for weakened bones.  Smoking greatly diminishes our circulation and bones are very dependent on healthy blood circulation.  Another little-known fact – drinking excessive alcohol and caffeine can increase calcium loss in your urine. So, moderation is important!

     Use proper body mechanics when lifting, standing, and bending.  Using large leg muscles rather than your back will prevent injury to the spine.  Make use of your cane or walker for stability in walking as recommended by your doctor or therapist.  This will prevent falls and the associated fractures that can occur. 

     Also, take your medicines as prescribed.  Calcium may often be ordered by your doctor as well as vitamin D, hormone replacement therapy, calcitonin or one of several newer drugs that helps in bone maintenance. Add foods rich in vitamin D to your diet such as eggs, fish, chicken, liver, as well as cereals and breads, and milk fortified with it. Getting outside in the sun for a brief time each day, while wearing sunscreen, is important for our bodies in producing vitamin D which metabolizes calcium.

     Lastly, remember to protect yourself from a fracture by putting into action the preventative steps mentioned above as well as proper fall-prevention strategies.  Help to maintain a clutter-free environment in your apartment, use as prescribed your walker/cane whenever walking.  Don’t try and reach or stoop to pick up items out of your reach – ask for assistance.  Take your time climbing steps, getting on or out of the van, and remain aware of the furniture or other people around you. 

    By taking steps to prevent bone disease as well as fractures, you can alter the course of your health and life – take good care of yourself!