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Osteoporosis - Avoiding Bone Loss

About 80% of older adults diagnosed with osteoporosis are women. Women’s bones are generally lighter then men’s and in the years following menopause, many women will see a rapid decline in bone density.

Small-framed, thin women are more likely to develop the condition, and it is also more common among Caucasian and Asian women. There are some other conditions that are also linked to increase risk of bone loss, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.


Osteoporosis - Avoiding Bone Loss

Some risk factors can be controlled. Smoking, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, and not enough Vitamin D and calcium in a woman’s diet can exacerbate bone loss. While a high preponderance of people with osteoporosis are women, men can suffer from the condition as well.

If you are approaching menopause, your AOA physician may want to do a bone density test to get a baseline understanding of your current bone health. With this baseline to compare with, you and your doctor will be better able to understand how quickly your bones are losing density, and can recommend treatment. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, you may be proscribed a phosphonate like Fosamax or Boniva. They can reduce bone loss and risk of fracture, and may even increase bone mass. These drugs may have unpleasant side effects such as gastrointestinal problems, acid reflux and nausea. Additionally, sometimes phosphonates can lead to increased risk of jawbone destruction. It is important to talk to your doctor about these potential side effects.

Some people take estrogen replacement therapy as a way to slow bone density loss, but this therapy tends to be used less because of concerns about heart disease and increased risk of cancer. Your AOA doctor will have the latest information on viable treatment options.

Calcium rich foods can help protect your bones at any stage of life. These include fish such as salmon, tuna and herring, which also contain the vitamin D we need to absorb calcium. Dark, leafy greens also provide magnesium, which helps maintain bone health. Heavy alcohol consumption and too much sodium can also adversely affect bone health. Weight-bearing exercise, like lifting weights, walking and running, dancing, and sports such as tennis that require using your whole body can all help maintain bone health.

Exercise such as yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi can help with balance as you age. While not particularly weight-bearing, this kind of activity is important to keep you flexible to and to help you avoid falls. Many people don’t realize that they’ve loss significant bone density until they fall and break a bone. And even if you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, it’s important to keep moving, because being inactive will only worsen the condition. Talk with your AOA doctor about diet and exercise and any treatments that can help maintain your bone health and mobility as you age.