There are many misconceptions about osteoporosis. This might be the biggest: It’s a disease of aging, the inevitable result of losing bone mass over the years.
“Osteoporosis risk actually begins at birth,” says Sanford Baim, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center. “It’s a lifelong issue, and you have to think about all of the factors that go into your risk of fractures, from genetics to lifestyle to medical conditions.”
While you can’t change your family history, you can — and should — take the following steps to protect your bones at every stage of life.
1. Keep tabs on your bone density
Women 65 and older and men 70 and older should get regular bone density tests, or DXA scans. You may need to start earlier if you have an increased risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
Factors that increase your risk include the following:
Use of medications that cause bone loss, such as steroids and certain cancer drugs
Having a small frame
If you do have a chronic health issue, make sure you are managing it properly. “If you don’t control the disease, you increase your risk of complications, including those that can weaken bones,” Baim says.
Young athletes who participate in multidirectional sports, instead of specializing in a unidirectional sport like running, can build stronger bones that may be at less risk for bone injuries as adults, according to a new study from Indiana University researchers.
Published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the study examined Division I and II female cross country runners, who often experience bone stress injuries like stress fractures. The researchers found that athletes who ran and participated in sports that require movement in many directions – such as basketball or soccer – when younger had better bone structure and strength than those who solely ran, swam or cycled.
Protecting your bones is part of a healthy aging strategy. Talk to your doctor about assessing your risk of fractures and devise a strategy to lower the risk, especially if you’ve had a fracture after age 50, according to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter. A comprehensive approach includes optimizing nutrition, reviewing exercise, safe moving practices, and fall prevention, and taking prescription medications if appropriate.
A key factor to maintaining the bone density you have is to make healthy choices to support bone health. These steps are important in both preventing osteoporosis and slowing its progression. They include:
■ Exercise — Weight bearing physical activity such as walking and moderate aerobic exercises can strengthen bones and reduce risk of fracture. Muscle strengthening exercises can help as well. Aim to exercise at least 30 min utes most days of the week. Ask your doctor whether any precautions are recommended, especially if you’re at increased risk of fracture.
■ Eat well — Eat a balanced diet and make certain that you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D from the food you eat.
■ Don’t smoke — Smoking speeds up bone loss.
■ Limit alcohol — Should you choose to drink, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 and younger.
A new IOF-led study examining the burden and management of fragility fractures in six European countries reveals an alarming treatment gap, with fracture-related costs projected to increase to €47.4 billion by 2030.
A new study provides an overview and comparison of the burden and management of fragility fractures due to osteoporosis in the five largest countries in Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom) as well as Sweden. The publication ‘Fragility fractures in Europe: burden, management and opportunities’ has been authored by an International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) steering committee in cooperation with experts from national societies.
Osteoporosis is a chronic condition in which bone mass and strength decrease causing an increased risk of fractures. Fragility fractures are a major cause of disability and early death in older adults, with one in three women and one in five men aged fifty and above sustaining a fracture in their remaining lifetime.
Turns out “Nuts to you” isn’t the insult it used to be. Here is a wonderful infographic on the benefits of eating cashews. I am a big fan of nuts in most shapes and forms. I include walnuts in my daily oatmeal.
I have written numerous times about the dangers and negative effects of obesity. You can check out previous posts by typing in o b e s i t y in the search box on the right.
New research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine highlights the pernicious effect of obesity on the long-term health of blood-making stem cells (hematopoietic stem cells).
Published Dec. 27, the study was led by researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute. Conducted largely in genetic models of obese mice, it shows obesity causes durable and harmful changes to the hematopoietic stem cell compartment – the blood-making factory in our bodies. Continue reading →
When it rains it pours. As if it weren’t difficult enough to be a senior citizen, it turns out that Type 2 diabetes adds a further level of complexity.
Though seniors with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) tend to have normal or higher bone density than their peers, researchers have found that they are more likely to succumb to fractures than seniors without T2D. In a new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, researchers from Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research found older adults with Type 2 diabetes had deficits in cortical bone–the dense outer surface of bone that forms a protective layer around the internal cavity– compared to non-diabetics. The findings suggest that the microarchitecture of cortical bone may be altered in seniors with T2D and thereby place them at increased risk of fracture.
Participants in this study included over 1,000 member of the Framingham Study who were examined over a period of 3 years. High resolution scanning allowed researchers to determine that many older adults with diabetes had weakness specific to cortical bone microarchitecture that cannot be measured by standard bone density testing.
Osteoporotic fractures are a significant public health problem that can lead to disability, decreased quality of life, and even death – not to mention significant health care costs. Risk of fracture is even greater in adults with T2D, including a 40 – 50% increased risk of hip fracture – the most serious of osteoporotic fractures.
“Fracture in older adults with Type 2 diabetes is a highly important public health problem and will only increase with the aging of the population and growing epidemic of diabetes. Our findings identify skeletal deficits that may contribute to excess fracture risk in older adults with diabetes and may ultimately lead to new approaches to improve prevention and treatment,” said Dr. Elizabeth Samelson, lead author of the study.
Researchers hope that novel studies such as this will help to revolutionize the area of bone health, especially for older adults. It is important to follow screening guidelines for bone density testing, but better understanding of all the factors that affect bone strength and the tendency to fracture is needed.
While eat less; move more; live longer is the mantra of this blog, I hasten to add that strength training should be an integral part of that move more aspect. Harvard HEALTHbeat has come out with a new publication on strength and power training.
Here’s what Harvard has to say on the subject: “Most of us know that strength training (with free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands) can help build and maintain muscle mass and strength. What many of us don’t know is that strong muscles lead to strong bones. And strong bones can help minimize the risk of fracture due to osteoporosis.
“A combination of age-related changes, inactivity, and poor nutrition conspire to steal bone mass at the rate of 1% per year after age 40. As bones grow more fragile and susceptible to fracture, they are more likely to break after even a minor fall or a far less obvious stress, such as bending over to tie a shoelace.
“Osteoporosis should be a concern for all of us. Eight million women and two million men in the United States have osteoporosis. It is now responsible for more than two million fractures a year, and experts expect that number will rise. Hip fractures are usually the most serious. Six out of 10 people who break a hip never fully regain their former level of independence. Even walking across a room without help may be impossible.”
I wanted to include this for two reasons, first, it has excellent information about our bones and a lot of people are pretty ignorant about them, myself included. Second, I thought it was really beautiful, very creatively constructed.
Let’s face it most people take their bones for granite (sorry, couldn’t resist it). But, it is important to realize that we need to work to strengthen our bones, too. Make sure you include weight-bearing exercise in your life. It will keep your bones strong.
I have written about osteoporosis numerous times as it attacks us in our latter years for the most part. Also, women seem more vulnerable to it than men.
I ran across the following in my web wanderings. Guys, this is relevant to all the women in our lives, wives, mothers, relatives, so please check it out.
Estrogen therapy has already been credited with helping women manage an array of menopause-related issues, including reducing hot flashes, improving heart health and bone density, and maintaining levels of sexual satisfaction.
Now a new study suggests that the same estrogen therapy used to treat osteoporosis can actually lead to healthier teeth and gums. The study outcomes were published online in
Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
It’s important to remember that our bones are living tissue as much as our muscles. We need to work them with weight bearing exercise throughout our lives. Aerobic work is fine for our cardiovascular system, but get some weight work in regularly. Happily, going for a walk is weight bearing exercise.
With apologies to George Thorogood, whose Bad to the Bone is a true rock classic, you really don’t want to be bad to your bones.
WebMD has produced a slideshow demonstrating things we do and don’t do that damage our bones. Our bones are as strong as cast iron yet remains as light as wood. Keep in mind that our bones are not all solid. The outside is solid surrounded by a few small canals. The inside, however, looks like a honeycomb.
The way we strengthen our bones is with weight-bearing exercise and good diet choices. As a bike rider, I am very aware of this. My regular riding is super cardio exercise, but does nothing for my bones. Not long ago, Tour de France riders, started integrating weight lifting with their workouts as they were coming down with osteoporosis.
WebMD offers eleven examples in a slide show that is worth checking out.
Here are a few examples in case you don’t have time right now. Skip that next pitcher of Margaritas. “When you’re out with friends, one more round might sound like fun. But to keep bone loss in check, you should limit the amount of alcohol you drink. No more than one drink a day for women and two for men is recommended. Alcohol can interfere with how your body absorbs calcium.”
I have written a Page about the damage smoking does and it turns out smoking damages your bones, too. “When you regularly inhale cigarette smoke, your body can’t form new healthy bone tissue as easily. The longer you smoke, the worse it gets.
Smokers have a greater chance of breaks and take longer to heal. But if you quit, you can lower these risks and improve your bone health, though it might take several years.”
Bananas are another of the common foods that we sometimes overlook when we are searching for good nutrition. Superfoods can be good, but don’t overlook diamonds in the rough like bananas which are sold everywhere, don’t cost much money and provide wonderful nutritional benefits.