DOVER — May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month and doctors across the nation are urging people of all ages to become more conscious of their bone health.
“Osteoporosis is characterized by low bone mass which increases the risk of fractures especially in larger bones like the hip and spine,” Dr. Glenda Albizu, of Dover Family Physicians, said.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 9 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 43 million have low bone density, but many are unaware of the condition because there are no symptoms of osteoporosis.
Dr. Albizu suggested that all individuals ages 65 and older get a bone density scan to see if they have osteoporosis.
“It’s a basic measure of how dense the bones are,” she said. “It doesn’t involve any radiation and checks the bones most at risk, the hip and lumbar spine.”
Nearly 60 percent of adults age 50 and older are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health, but most aren’t.
“As we get older, the amount of hormones our bodies produce decreases, but there are also other factors too like a family history of osteoporosis, excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, smoking and a lack of activity,” Dr. Albizu said.
The changes in hormones affect women more than men, making women twice as likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men.
The osteoporosis foundation reports that one in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. For women, the risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis is greater than the risk of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined.
But preventative measures can be taken to keep bones healthy and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Dr. Albizu suggested increasing daily calcium intake (individuals older than 50 should get 1200mg per day), consuming less caffeine, quitting smoking, eating healthy and staying active.
“It really comes down to just living a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
Not taking action to keep bones healthy can be a serious matter considering some disturbing statistics the foundation provides on its website.
Up to 24 percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and older die in the year following the fracture and due to slower recovery rates for older people, only 15 percent of those who suffer a hip fracture can walk unaided six months after the fracture.
Every year, nearly one quarter of the 300,000 hip fracture patients end up in nursing homes and half never regain full function.
Many of the fractures people with osteoporosis suffer are a direct result of falls, for which preventative measures should also be taken.
A few simple tips the foundation offers are: exercise to keep your muscles strong and improve balance; wear supportive shoes with rubber soles and low heels; don’t walk in socks or slip-on slippers; keep your floors free of clutter. Remove loose wires, cords and throw rugs; keep halls, stairs and entry ways well lighted. Use night lights in the bedroom and bathroom; use grab bars and a nonskid rubber mat in the shower or bathtub and; have your vision and hearing checked regularly.
But bone health isn’t only an issue for those ages 50 and older, it’s something to be aware of starting in childhood. About 85 percent to 90 percent of adult bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.
Building strong bones throughout childhood and adolescence can help prevent osteoporosis later in life so parents should also ensure their children are leading healthy lifestyles starting at a young age.
For more information about osteoporosis and bone health, visit nof.org.