According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF)1, 54 million Americans have low bone mass or osteoporosis. Many more Americans develop a less severe form of low bone density, osteopenia. Osteoporosis is a disease that results when the body loses too much bone, making the bones weak or brittle, and ultimately leads to an increased risk of fracture. Additionally, the NOF notes that women are twice as likely as men to break a bone because of osteoporosis. Breaking a bone is a serious complication of osteoporosis, especially in older adults, and the most recent studies show an increasing rate of hip fracture in older women. Therefore, prevention and screening strategies for osteoporosis remain important for optimal health.
At the California Health & Longevity Institute we encourage appropriate screening for osteoporosis and focus on the steps needed to keep you bones strong to prevent bone loss in the first place. See our tips below for the latest recommendations on bone health!
How to screen for osteoporosis?
A DEXA scan, a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan, is a low-dose x-ray used to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis. Fortunately screening is easy, non-invasive and takes just a few minutes.
Who should get screened?
Women age 65 or older should have baseline screening according to the U.S. Preventive Task Force. Evidence for screening in men is less defined, but osteoporosis is not just a disease seen in women, so men should discuss screening with their doctor. Individuals with risk factors for osteoporosis should be screened earlier. Talk to your doctor and ask them to perform a fracture risk assessment (FRAX), especially if you have a history of any of the following risk factors:
– Consuming 3 or more alcoholic drinks per day
– Prolonged steroid therapy
– Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, or other autoimmune disorders
– Personal fracture from minimal impact or height loss
– Bariatric (weight loss) surgery
– Family history of parent with a hip fracture or osteoporosis
Does your diet matter?
Absolutely! Eating a well balance diet, high in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, is associated with better bone density. Eating a diet rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus is important too. When possible, it is always best to get your calcium through your diet to optimize absorption, but supplements can help if you have dietary restrictions or limitations.
– The NOF recommends 1,000 mg of calcium per day from all sources for women Age 50 and younger and men age 70 and younger, while women 51 and older and Men 71 and older are recommended to consume 1200 mg of calcium per day from all sources.
– Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, so calcium supplements typically contain vitamin D.
– If your vitamin D level is deficient you may benefit from additional vitamin D replacement, so talk with your physician.
Is balance important?
Yes! Recent studies confirm balance is a leading contributor to falls, which can lead to fractures. If you struggle balancing on one foot for 30 seconds or walking heel-toe, talk to your doctor about tips to improve your balance, including options for physical therapy.
What about exercise?
Weight-bearing activity such as lifting weights and walking can reduce fracture risk too. When your muscles are stronger your bones are stronger! Additionally, exercise can improve balance. So keep active and include 30 minutes of weight-bearing activity into your daily routine. It is never too late to protect your bones, so start exercising today!