Osteoporosis conjures up images of little old ladies hunched over with cute little canes. But there’s nothing cute about it. My first real slap-in-the-face experience with osteoporosis was when my 87 year old buddy, Elizabeth suffered a broken femur. No, she did not fall. The break was the result of nursing aides transferring Elizabeth from her bed to her chair so she could watch tv. Wow.
I was 23 years old at the time and working as an exercise physiologist at an independent and assisted living facility. It was a true education in osteoporosis—there’s nothing like real world experiences to teach you about life.
- Osteoporosis is a major health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans (10 million people have the disease while 34 million have low bone mass (which greatly increases the risk of developing osteoporosis)
- 80% of people with osteoporosis are women
- Osteoporosis is not just an “old person’s” disease—it can strike at any age
- In 2005, $19 billion was spent on fractures caused by osteoporosis
- Women can lose up to 20% of their bone mass in the first 5-7 years following menopause
- Approximately half of all women over 50 years old will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime
- A woman’s risk of getting a hip fracture is equal to her combined risk of developing breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer
- An average of 24% of hip fracture patients (aged 50 and over) die in the year following the fracture
- Being a woman
- Getting older
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low body weight
- Family history of osteoporosis
- History of broken bones
- Excessive intake of caffeine, sodium and protein
- Abusing alcohol
- Low sex hormones
- Certain races and ethnicities
- Missing your period (often caused by eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa)
- Certain medications
Unfortunately, most women don’t know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. A bone density test will let you know how healthy your bones are.
Prevention & Treatment
Other steps you can take to ward off this silent disease include:
- Make sure you get the recommended amounts of calcium and Vitamin D every day
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- Engage in regular weight bearing (such as walking) and strength training exercises
- Talk to you doctor about your bone heath
- Get a bone mineral density (BMD) test if you’re at risk
- Take medications that will help build your bones (only if necessary)
Fighting osteoporosis is something you should take seriously. So get started—it’s never too late! For more information, please go to the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
Stand Tall and Be Strong!