Make no bones about it, osteoporosis is dangerous to life and limb.The bone-thinning disease is a serious condition, says Sara Schoenfeld, MD, a fellow in Mass General’s Division of Rheumatology.
The reason doctors care so much about preventing and treating osteoporosis is to help prevent disabling fractures.
The fractures that commonly result from osteoporosis cause disability and increase the risk of death, particularly in women, Dr. Schoenfeld says.
“Osteoporosis is more than just a natural aging process,” she explains. “It’s really a disease process that makes your bones become weak and fragile.” The most common places for osteoporotic fractures are the spine, wrist and hip, Dr. Schoenfeld says.
Hip fractures, particularly in older people, raise the risk of illness and death. Spine fractures are often silent. “You might not even know you have a spine fracture,” she says. That’s the reason doctors care so much about preventing and treating osteoporosis—to prevent disabling fractures.
Bone loss is a gradual process that can be slowed with some simple lifestyle practices. The following are tips for slowing or preventing osteoporosis:
Do Weight-Bearing Exercise
- Walk or run 20 to 30 minutes about four times per week.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles and core muscles to improve balance.
- Try to consume 1,200 mg of calcium per day. Dietary sources of calcium are preferred over supplements, when possible.
- Choose calcium-rich foods including low-fat milk, yogurt and broccoli.
- Take calcium supplements to reach your daily goal, if needed.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Don’t smoke.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation.
- Use handrails on the stairs and in the bathroom.
- Keep rooms free of clutter.
- Keep floors clean but not slippery.
- Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes.
- Use 100-watt light bulbs.
- Use a rubber mat in the shower.
- Keep a flashlight by your bedside.
Talk to your doctor about when you should have a bone density test and whether you may need additional treatment for osteoporosis.
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