While it is true that with age we can lose bone faster than our bodies can create it, developing osteoporosis is not a certainty. How likely you are to develop osteoporosis depends partly on how much bone mass you attained earlier in life. The higher your peak bone mass at age 20 or so, the more bone you have "in the bank" and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis later in life. Bone is living tissue, which is constantly being absorbed and replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when the creation of new bone doesn't keep up with the removal of old bone.
Women carry a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, but men must be aware that they can develop the disease as well. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women and one in four men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her/his lifetime.
Because our communities are home to many older adults, we care for folks who have developed the disease and work with them to maintain a treatment program. Plenty of seniors who do not have osteoporosis, fear the disease. How many seniors do you know who worry about falling and breaking a hip?
The good news is that many people can lessen their risk of developing osteoporosis by adopting a few healthy living behaviors. Watching alcohol consumption is advised as alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Smoking contributes to weak bones, and of course there are many other health reasons to quit the habit. Making sure you get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet is essential for bone health. (Everyone should consult their doctor if they think they need to get more calcium or Vitamin D by taking supplements.) Staying active and exercising regularly can reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis considerably.
Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Muscles get bigger and stronger when you use them. Bones get stronger and denser when you make them work. And “work” for bones means handling impact, the weight of your body or more resistance. Two types of exercises that are important for building and maintaining bone density are weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises.
Any weight-bearing exercise is beneficial for your bones, but walking, running, jumping, dancing, climbing stairs and weightlifting seem particularly helpful for creating healthy bones. People who cannot do high-impact exercises have many options including walking on a treadmill or outside and doing low impact aerobics. One of the most popular activities in our communities is Wii bowling. While practitioners get the benefits of low-impact aerobic exercise from a game or two, those who participate in our Wii bowling leagues are really in it for the competition and fun.
We offer a wide range of exercise programs in our communities to match the interests of our residents and focus on increasing flexibility, improving balance and building core strength. When older adults concentrate on these goals they greatly lessen their risk of falling. For those with low bone mass, a small stumble can lead to a bone fracture. Because of our efforts, our fall rates for seniors in all our communities are less than half the industry standard.
Some risk factors for osteoporosis are out of your control, including family history and body size. Men and women who have small body frames tend to have a higher risk because they may have less bone mass to draw from as they age. Also, there are medications for other conditions that can lessen bone density as a side effect.
Today there are drugs that can prevent, slow or stop the progress of the disease. The best defense is to prevent the onset of the disease if possible. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D as well as appropriate exercise are essential to bone health for everyone.