National Consumers League

Health

NCL Health Issues

Osteoporosis: Love your bones so they'll love you back

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Hip fractures hurt! Did you know 1 in 5 older Americans who suffer from a hip fracture die within a year of the fracture? One in 5 people with a hip fracture end up in a nursing home within a year. Hip fractures account for 300,000 hospitalizations each year. You may not realize how common it is, that it affects both men and women, and – most importantly – that there are steps you can take to prevent and/or treat it!

More than 10 million Americans over the age of 50 have osteoporosis – a disease that causes bone to become thin, weak, and brittle, and another 34 million are at risk for developing this serious bone disease. While the immediate consequence of the disease is bone fracture (roughly 1.5 million people suffer a bone fracture related to osteoporosis each year), osteoporosis can lead to a downward spiral in general physical health and quality of life. People with the bone disease may lose the ability to walk, stand up, or dress unassisted, and are at an increased risk of premature death.

 

Osteoporosis is a "silent" condition because many people don’t know that their bone health is in jeopardy. And it’s not only women who need to worry about it! While post-menopausal white women are at greatest risk, osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. And, while bone weakness is more common in older Americans, building strong bones begins in childhood.

The good news is that you are never too old or too young to improve your bone health. With healthy nutrition, physical activity, and regular medical checkups and screenings, you can do wonders for your bone health.

  • Start with diagnosis to find out if you have the disease or are at risk. The only way to know for sure is to speak to your health care professional who will work with you to review your risk factors and, if appropriate, suggest a bone mineral density (BMD) test. This test is safe and painless. Check with your health care professional to see if a BMD test is right for you.
  • If you have osteoporosis, be sure to make the following lifestyle modifications:
  1. Get the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active at least 30 minutes a day.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption.
  5. Prevent falls by removing trip hazards from your home and be sure that your home has enough light.
  6. If prescribed, take your osteoporosis medications as directed by your doctor.
  • If you don’t have osteoporosis but are at risk or just concerned, thank your lucky stars and follow steps 1-4 above to keep it that way!

Remember, despite its severity, osteoporosis is preventable and treatable. Medications such as bisphosphonates, as well as weight-bearing exercise and an adequate daily intake of calcium and Vitamin D, can prevent the disease in people at risk and limit its progression in those who have been diagnosed. Some drugs can be taken weekly or even monthly instead of daily, improving compliance. Talk to your doctor to find out what treatment is right for you!