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Sheltering Arms Blog

Fragile bones

Posted on: February 13, 2018 by Robert Moss

By Hillary Hawkins, M.D.

The statistics are sobering. Worldwide, osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds. After age 50, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience osteoporotic fractures.

We would love to see those statistics change. Too often, we see patients after their fall, when bones are broken and recovery is long. We would much prefer to see a patient at age 55 so we could work with them to prevent osteoporosis, a thinning of the bone.

Left untreated, osteoporosis progresses slowly with no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, and thus it goes undiagnosed. When symptoms do occur, it is usually too late to erase the damage to your bones. A devastating fracture may be the first sign, and that frequently is a life-changing event—making it difficult to get around independently.

As we age, our bodies may not absorb enough calcium and phosphate from our diet. If you were to look at osteoporotic bone under a microscope, it looks like a honeycomb and as the disease progresses, the holes get bigger and bigger. The decline of estrogen in women, and testosterone in men, is the leading cause of osteoporosis. But there are many other causes that would need to be evaluated by a doctor.

The good news is there are a lot of ways to stave off brittle bones. Drugs, supplements, and/or hormone replacement therapy may be advised. The following are a few things you can do on your own:

1. Exercise:  Try weight-bearing exercise such as walking, jogging, or dancing. Resistance training with free weights, stretch bands, or weight machines helps. Balance improvement exercises such as tai chi and yoga are also a critical component.
2. Diet:  Foods or supplements high in calcium are recommended. Nearly 85 percent of the world’s population has a vitamin D deficiency. Getting some sun exposure helps, but a supplement is recommended
3. Lifestyle:  Eliminating tobacco and alcohol also reduces damage to your bones.

If you have been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis or have a family history and want to learn how to prevent it, call us at 804-764-1000 to schedule an evaluation with a Sheltering Arms physician or therapist. Our goal is to help you maintain strength in your muscles and bones, improve your balance, and prevent falls.