When beginning a journey on the path to good health, the typical roadblocks to be avoided are heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. However, osteoporosis, the disease that leaves bones thin, weak and more prone to fracture, is also a serious condition that bears attention.
Bones reach peak thickness or density by age 30, said Robin Long, assistant director of Caring Connections, a cooperative women’s health program of the Bangor Y and Eastern Maine Medical Center.
When a woman reaches menopause and estrogen production is reduced, bone loss accelerates, which increases her risk for osteoporosis.
One of the major problems with osteoporosis is that significant injury could be sustained from a fall, said Long. Even seemingly minor mishaps can result in a fracture. Take a look around your home and remove clutter in pathways and tripping hazards. The best way to avoid injury from a fall is to prevent the fall all together, she advised.
“But osteoporosis can become so severe that picking up a bag of groceries can break a wrist,” said Long.
Here are some risk factors that can accelerate bone loss:
—Low body weight – less than 127 pounds
—Post-menopausal – natural or surgical
—Use of medications such as corticosteroids and certain anti-convulsants. This includes men, who can also be at risk.
—Low physical activity
—Life-long low calcium intake
—History of fracture in a close relative
—Smoking. It’s toxic to bones and taking extra calcium cannot repair the damage.
—Heavy use of alcohol
But osteoporosis is not typically an inevitable consequence of aging and there are some simple steps you can take to protect your bones.
First, ask your doctor about a bone density test, which will reveal your bone status. Then ask about doing weight-bearing exercises to build up bones, such as walking and lifting light weights.
On the dietary side of preventing osteoporosis, consuming calcium rich foods helps in the fight for strong bones. While drinking milk may seem like kids stuff, it is a powerhouse of calcium.
Other options include low-fat cheese, yogurt, ice cream, canned salmon, broccoli, almonds and fortified fruit juice. Ask your health care provider about the proper amount of calcium and vitamin D needed for your age and take a supplement if necessary.
Figuring the milligrams of calcium in foods couldn’t be easier, said Long. Simply multiply the “percent daily value” of calcium, found on the container, by 10 to get the number of milligrams. For example, if a food has 30 percent calcium, it has 300 milligrams.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. E-mail Higgins Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.