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Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Osteoporosis makes your bones weak and brittle and this increases the risk of them breaking. Anyone can develop osteoporosis, but it is more common in older women. This means 44 million Americans are at risk. As many as one half of all women and a quarter of men older than 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

Risk factors for osteoporosis include:

- Getting older
- Being small and thin
- Having a family history of osteoporosis
- Taking certain medicines
- Being a white or Asian woman
- Having osteopenia, which is low bone mass

Osteoporosis is a silent disease, meaning that most people don’t know they have it until they break a bone. You can protect your bones by eating a balanced diet that is rich in calcium and vitamin D and by getting regular exercise. If your doctor feels you are at risk for osteoporosis, he or she may order a bone density test to see how dense your bones are and whether or not you have osteoporosis. It can also tell you what the chances are that you could break a bone. The results of the test can help your doctor decide what kind of prevention or treatment program you need.

There are a number of medications available for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. These include bisphosphonates; estrogen agonists/antagonists (also called selective estrogen receptor modulators or SERMS); parathyroid hormone; estrogen therapy; hormone therapy; and a recently approved RANK ligand (RANKL) inhibitor.

In men, reduced levels of testosterone may be linked to osteoporosis. Men who have abnormally low levels of testosterone may be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy to help slow bone loss.

Something to keep in mind: both excessive sodium and protein increase our need for calcium by excreting it in our urine, so it is important to take both in moderation in your diet.

Reducing the risk of falling:
You can significantly reduce your risk of falling by engaging in activities that help increase your balance, flexibility and strength.

Activities recommended by the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases - National Resource Center:

Strength training
Tai chi
Stair climbing

Here are a couple safety checklists, also from NIH:

Indoor safety checklist
- Use nightlights throughout your home.
- Keep all rooms free from clutter, especially the floors.
- Keep floor surfaces smooth but not slippery. When entering rooms, be aware of differences in floor levels and thresholds.
- Wear supportive, low-heeled shoes even at home. Avoid walking around in socks, stockings, or floppy slippers.
- Check that all carpets and area rugs have skid-proof backing or are tacked to the floor, including carpeting on stairs.
- Keep electrical cords and telephone lines out of walkways.
- Be sure that all stairways are well lit and that stairs have handrails on both sides. Consider placing fluorescent tape on the edges of top and bottom steps.
- Install grab bars on bathroom walls beside tubs, showers, and toilets. If you are unstable on your feet, consider using a plastic chair with a back and nonskid leg tips in the shower.
- Use a rubber bathmat in the shower or tub.
- Keep a flashlight with extra batteries beside your bed.
- Add ceiling fixtures to rooms lit only by lamps, or install lamps that can be turned on by a switch near the entrance to the room.
- Use at least 100-watt light bulbs in your home.

Outdoor safety checklist
- In bad weather, consider using a cane or walker for extra stability.
- In winter, wear warm boots with rubber soles for added traction.
- Look carefully at floor surfaces in public buildings. Many floors are made of highly polished marble or tile that can be very slippery. When floors have plastic or carpet runners in place, try to stay on them whenever possible.
- Use a shoulder bag, fanny pack, or backpack to leave hands free.
- Stop at curbs to check height before stepping up or down. Be cautious at curbs that have been cut away to allow access for bikes or wheelchairs. The incline may lead to a fall.

Links for more information on Osteoporosis:

Bone Health for Life: Easy-to-Read Information for Patients and Families from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Handout on Health: Osteoporosis from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Osteoporosis from the American College of Rheumatology

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