What is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by decreased bone density, resulting in fragile bones that easily break. Common sites for breakage are the spine, hips, and wrists. As the disease progresses, the bones become more porous and sponge-like. Osteoporosis can go undetected for years. Often, the first symptom is a fractured bone. A bone mineral density test is often used to diagnose Osteoporosis.
Who's at Risk?
Women have a much greater risk of having osteoporosis than men do. One in every two women and one in every four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Risk is even higher for those who are:
- Caucasian or Asian
- Over 50 years of age
- Petite or thin
- From a family that has a history of the disease
- Inactive or on bed rest
- Lacking calcium and/or vitamin D
- Excessive drinkers
- Women with low estrogen levels or who are post-menopausal
Other risk factors include taking certain medications, such as some blood thinners and anti-seizure meds, as well as long-term usage of oral corticosteroids. Those who have had prior fractures as an adult, rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia, or amenorrhea also face a greater risk.
Fight Back With a Treatment Plan
Talk to the doctor about the best treatment plan for your parent or loved one. Here are important steps that can be started right away.
- A balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D.
- An exercise plan.
- No smoking or excessive drinking.
- Medications and vitamin supplements, if needed.
Make sure your loved one eats plenty of calcium rich foods, such as non-or low-fat dairy products, including milk, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese and other cheeses. Green leafy vegetables, such as bok choy, broccoli, and spinach; canned sardines and salmon with soft bones; tofu, almonds, and calcium fortified orange juice are all good sources of calcium. Now it's your turn to tell Mom to drink her milk and eat all her veggies.
Vitamin D is made in our bodies through sun exposure, and helps us to absorb calcium. If your parents or loved ones are housebound or live in the North, chances are they may need a vitamin D supplement, especially during the winter. Always consult their doctor before giving them any additional supplement or medication.