May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, a month to bring light to what most people don’t think about – their bones. Osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracturing occurring every 3 seconds.
Curious If You’re at Risk?
Risk factors include:
- Sex: Women are more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.
- Age: Your body has trouble rebuilding bones to replace the broken ones the older you get.
Family history: Individuals whose parent or family member has osteoporosis, or whose mother or father has had a hip fracture, hold a higher risk for osteoporosis.
- Body frame size: Those with a smaller body frame have less bone mass.
- Hormone levels: Women undergoing menopause and cancer treatments lose estrogen levels. Men lose testosterone levels, as they get older, too, but also when they go through prostate cancer treatments. Having overactive parathyroid, thyroid, or adrenal glands (or if taking medication for an underactive thyroid) increases a person’s chance of developing osteoporosis.
- Nutrition: Someone who has an eating disorder simply isn’t consuming enough calories, protein, and vitamins. Having a low calcium intake makes it harder to develop bones.
- Medication: People who are using corticosteroid such as prednisone and cortisone are at risk because those medications interfere with bone regrowth. People who are taking medication for seizures, cancer, transplant rejection, and gastric reflux are also more likely to experience osteoporosis.
Consuming excessive alcohol: The risk of fractures increases with alcohol consumption.
Sometimes you can’t control the inevitable, but there are ways you can prevent and slow the progress of osteoporosis. Here are 3 ways you can minimize your risk:
- If you don’t consume enough calcium from food, you can take a calcium supplement. The amount of calcium you’d want to take depends on how much you’re getting from food. Women under the age of 50 and men under the age of 71 need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, whereas women over 50 and men over 71 need 1,200 milligrams.
- Besides calcium supplements, it’s important to take Vitamin D supplements because that’s what your body needs to absorb calcium! You can get Vitamin D from the sun, but keep in mind that too much sun is harmful. You can get Vitamin D from fatty fish like tuna and salmon, egg yolks, milk, and liver.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! Many people think they should avoid exercising because they might injure themselves or fracture a bone. Not really! Exercise actually builds bones, muscles, and improves your balance, ultimately, slowing bone loss. Exercises such as swimming, dancing, running, walking, cycling, jumping, skipping rope, skiing, and weightlifting are highly recommended.
In addition to the 3 mentioned above, taking precaution to prevent falls and slips is beneficial. Wearing comfortable shoes is a must! Invest in nonslip soles and avoid using socks or slippers around the house. Moreover, you can avoid falls by tucking electrical wires and cords away, securing rugs, and checking for slippery surfaces in your home. At night, use night-lights around your home to keep it well lit to avoid your chances of falling or bumping into something. Going to the doctor to get your vision and hearing checked, as well as having grab bars and rubber mats in the shower or bathtub is crucial so you won’t accidently slip.
You can also take medication for osteoporosis. If you’d like to know more about them and their effects, here’s a link to our fact sheet on osteoporosis medication treatments: https://nwhn.org/osteoporosis
Decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis: start now and take precaution!
Prisca Maldonado was a NWHN Intern in Spring 2015.
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