The older you get the greater your risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a bone disease in which bones are brittle, weak and more likely to break. People with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. There are no signs or symptoms of osteoporosis. You might not know you have the disease until you break a bone. That’s why it’s so important to get a bone density test to measure your bone strength.
A bone mineral density (BMD) test is like an x-ray or scan of your body. A bone density test estimates the true mass of the bone. It doesn’t hurt, and you don’t need to do anything to prepare for it. It only takes about 15 minutes. By measuring BMD, it is possible to predict fracture risk. A BMD test is recommended for all women between the ages of 50 and 65 with risk factors such as family history, bone structure and body weight, and ethnicity, to name a few. The test is recommended for all women over the age of 65. Men and women who take certain medications or have certain diseases should talk to their doctor about having a bone density test, too. Men over 65 who have concerns about osteoporosis, should talk to their doctor about a bone density test.
- About 40% of postmenopausal women in the U.S. have osteopenia (low bone density). An additional 7% have osteoporosis (substantially low bone density).
- One in three women and one of five men over the age of 50 will experience a bone fracture related to osteoporosis.
- About 33% of people who suffer a hip fracture are totally dependent or in a nursing home in the year following the fracture, stressing the importance of early detection and appropriate therapy.
- Osteoporosis has many available prescription and nonprescription treatment options once the diagnosis is made.
These things can also increase your risk for osteoporosis:
- Hormone changes (especially for women who have gone through menopause)
- Not getting enough calcium and Vitamin D
- Taking certain medicines
- Smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting enough physical activity
If you have osteoporosis, you can still slow down bone loss. Finding and treating this disease early can keep you healthier and more active, lowering your chances of breaking a bone.
Get enough calcium.
Calcium helps keep your bones strong. Good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Broccoli and greens
- Tofu with added calcium
- Orange juice with added calcium
- Calcium pills
Get enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Your body makes vitamin D when you are out in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from:
- Salmon or tuna
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt with added vitamin D
- Breakfast cereals and juices with added vitamin D
- Vitamin D pills
Physical activity can help slow down bone loss. Weight-bearing activities (like running or doing jumping jacks) help keep your bones strong.
- Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity. If you are new to exercise, start with 10 minutes of activity at a time.
- Do strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. These include lifting weights or using resistance bands (long rubber strips that stretch).
- Find an exercise buddy or go walking with friends. You will be more likely to stick with it if you exercise with other people.
You don’t need special equipment or a gym membership to stay active. Check with your local community center or senior center to find fun, low-cost, or free exercise options.
If you have a health condition or a disability, be as active as you can be. Your doctor can help you choose activities that are right for you.
Stay away from cigarettes and alcohol.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol can weaken your bones. Find ways to stop smoking. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. This means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.
Take steps to prevent falls.
Falls can be especially serious for people with weak bones. You can make small changes to lower your risk of falling, like doing exercises that improve your balance. For example, try walking backwards or standing up from a sitting position without using your hands.
It’s never too late to get on the right track to being and staying healthy!