Are You At Risk? 5 Steps to Help Prevent Osteoporosis, the ‘Silent Disease’
For many people, staying healthy means exercising, eating a well-balanced diet and making positive lifestyle decisions to prevent future health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Too often, however, little or no thought is given to bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones in which the bones become porous or spongy, creating low bone mass. Randy Wise, RN, an orthopedic research and outcomes nurse at Memorial Medical Center, said an estimated 10 million to 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and millions more are at risk because of low bone mass.
“Bones are like cells in the body — there is a constant process where bone cells are dying and regenerating,” he said. “If there is an imbalance in this process to the point where the bones just cannot regenerate fast enough, osteoporosis occurs. At that point, the bones start to become porous and more fragile and susceptible to fracture over time.
“A lot of times, it’s called a ‘silent disease’ because there are no warning signs that you have osteoporosis, or are at risk.”
The elderly are at the greatest risk of developing osteoporosis and suffering bone fractures. According to Wise, there are several factors associated with an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
- Risk Factors for Osteoporosis
- A poor diet, or a diet low in calcium and vitamin D
- Individuals who lead a sedentary lifestyle
- A family history of osteoporosis
- Consuming an excessive daily amount of alcohol and caffeine
- Certain medications
- Certain pre-existing medical issues
Upon completion of a comprehensive physical exam by your healthcare provider, a bone density exam may be ordered to diagnose osteoporosis. This is a painless X-ray procedure to provide a picture of the overall bone health.
Though there is no known cure for osteoporosis, there are ways to prevent, slow or even stop its progress. No matter how old you are, it is never too late to start improving your bone health, Wise said.
- Osteoporosis Prevention Tips
- Talk to your doctor about bone health.
- Learn about specific medications for treating osteoporosis. Some medications have been shown to increase bone density, while other medications slow down the loss process.
- Make dietary changes to include more calcium and Vitamin D.
- Exercise regularly.
- Reduce other risk factors such as smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption.
“If you suspect you are at risk for osteoporosis, the first thing to do is get a complete physical exam,” Wise said. “Your doctor will be able to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce your risks, or even reverse the damage.”
For more information, Wise suggests the National Osteoporosis Foundation (www.nof.org) and the American Orthopaedic Association (www.aoassn.org).