By Robin Earl
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, making them porous and more susceptible to breaks. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation provides some sobering statistics:
- Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk.
- One in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone in their lifetime due to osteoporosis. For women, the incidence is greater than that of heart attack, stroke and breast cancer combined. Although a woman’s risk of osteoporosis is greater than a man’s, men’s risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis is higher than being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
- The risk of hip fracture is especially worrying. Twenty-four percent of hip fracture patients age 50 and over die in the year following the fracture. Six months after a hip fracture, only 15 percent of patients can walk across a room unaided. Every year, of nearly 300,000 hip fracture patients, one-quarter end up in nursing homes and half never regain previous function.
There is good news, however. According to Elena Dwyer, PT at Fauquier Health Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help slow or stop the loss of bone mass and help prevent fractures. Here are some steps to take today to prevent or slow osteoporosis in the future.
Get enough calcium, magnesium and vitamin D every day. Most people know that yogurt, milk and cheese offer good sources of calcium, but so do leafy green vegetables like broccoli and kale, almonds, rhubarb, canned salmon or sardines, and figs. Foods high in magnesium include fish, leafy greens, and even dark chocolate. Vitamin D is not as easy to get in your diet, but your body makes vitamin D when you get sunshine on your skin—just another good reason to venture outside and enjoy the spring weather. Take a calcium, magnesium or vitamin D supplement if you are deficient, but don’t take more than you need. Talk to your doctor about the proper dosage for you.
Strengthen your bones with weight-bearing exercises. You don’t need heavy weights or fancy equipment. Body weight exercises are great for preventing bone density loss. Start slow and when you are ready, you can start to make exercises more challenging with dumbbells or resistance bands. Walking is the best exercise of all. Dwyer said, “Even if you can’t do anything else, you can walk.” For those who weigh less than 125 pounds, she also suggested a weighted vest to wear while walking.
Stop smoking and limit your alcohol intake. Smoking and drinking alcohol are risk factors for osteoporosis—just one more reason to give these up.
Talk to your doctor to see if it’s time for a bone density test. Screenings (a bone density test of the hip and spine using a central DXA machine) recommended for women over 65 and men over 70, if they have no other risk factors. Your doctor can determine whether you should be screened earlier.
Improve your balance to prevent falls. Exercises that strengthen your core muscles can help your balance. Take a tai chi or yoga class, or ask your doctor about balance exercises you can do at home.
For patients diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, Dwyer is certified in The Meeks Method, a comprehensive program designed to prevent, arrest and/or reverse the common patterns of postural change as people age.
If you feel this would benefit you, your physician can provide a physical therapy referral; contact Fauquier Health PM&R at 540-316-2680 to schedule an appointment.
Fauquier Health’s Total Joint Replacement program Recertified
The Joint Commission has recertified Fauquier Health’s Total Joint Replacement program. Julie Ross, director of Rehabilitation Services, said that the surveyors who were reviewing the program highlighted its many strengths.
They noted that: All patients interviewed were very happy with their care and experiences; the physician who was interviewed, Dr. James Ramser, was supportive and took pride in the program, and said he had all the equipment and support he needed at the hospital; there is great teamwork between departments; total hip replacements are being done consistently, using an anterior approach, and surgical site infection rate is outstanding.