“Oh my aching bones” is a phrase you’ve probably muttered at some point. While being bone-weary can be bothersome, it is not typically cause for alarm.
What does require attention, however, is osteoporosis, the disease that leaves bones thin, weak and more prone to fracture. It is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Unfortunately, osteoporosis is known as the “silent disease” because changes can go unnoticed until a fall or a broken bone occurs. Sadly, your bones have probably been getting weaker for years. The National Institute on Aging explains on their website, “To keep bones strong, your body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone tissue. As people enter their 40s and 50s, more bone may be broken down than is replaced.”
Seemingly minor mishaps can result in a fracture, so take a look around your home and remove clutter in pathways and tripping hazards such as throw rugs. The best way to avoid injury from a fall is to prevent the fall altogether.
The National Institute on Aging highlights the following risk factors for osteoporosis:
— A family history of broken bones or osteoporosis
— Breaking a bone as an adult
— Having surgery to remove the ovaries before periods stopped
— Early menopause
— Not getting enough calcium throughout your life
— Extended bed rest
— Using certain medicines for a long time
— A small body frame
There is good news — osteoporosis is not typically an inevitable fact of aging. 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, 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, canned sardines and salmon including bones, broccoli, almonds and fortified fruit juice. Ask your health care provider how much calcium and vitamin D you should have every day.
It’s time to stop this silent disease in its tracks.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.