Healthy Bones: Protect Yours for Life!

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on March 19, 2018

Why is it so critical to keep your bones healthy as you age?

Keeping them strong can help prevent fractures. Ask anyone over 50 who’s broken a hip. This common accident leaves 40 percent of people unable to walk independently.

And a year after breaking their hip, 33 percent of these patients become totally dependent on a caregiver or need to enter a nursing home.

It’s not a pretty picture.

About half of those who suffer one broken bone will also break another, and the risk of more breaks grows with each new fracture.

One in four women who suffer a spine fracture have another within a year.

“If people are able to keep their bones healthy, they can decrease the likelihood of suffering one of these fractures,” said Lisa Wright, a nurse practitioner with the Fracture Liaison Service at Carilion Clinic’s Bone Health Clinic

What Is Osteoporosis?

When we’re young, our bones grow rapidly. But as we grow older, bone rebuilding greatly slows down and we can begin to lose bone.

“This can result in osteoporosis: weaker, less dense bones that break more easily and heal more slowly,” Wright said.

Breaking a bone due to osteoporosis can be very serious.

Long-term effects can include:

  • Loss of mobility
  • Chronic pain
  • A curved spine
  • Fragility fractures (a bone break that occurs with little trauma, such as a minor fall)
  • Stooping/bent posture
  • Loss of height

Breaks can also be life-threatening.

“Up to 24 percent of people who break their hip die within a year,” said Wright.

Risk Factors

How common is osteoporosis? Unfortunately, it affects half of all women and one in four men over 50.

Besides age, risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Family history
  • Frame/size (the smaller the frame, the higher the risk)
  • Medical conditions such as Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Eating disorders
  • Race (Caucasians and Asians are most often affected)
  • Reduced hormone production, especially after menopause

Prevention

“Eating a healthy diet is important to prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis,” said Wright.

She recommends eating more dairy products, nuts and leafy green vegetables, and supplementing your diet with calcium and vitamin D.

Exercise is another a life-saver.

“Weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging, stair climbing, dancing and weight-lifting are good ways to build your bone density and strength,” Wright added.

You can also take steps to prevent falling at home—where most falls occur among those over 50.

Tips for staying safe include:

  • Never walk in your socks, especially on hardwood stairs
  • Wear shoes with nonskid soles that fit well
  • Get your vision checked yearly
  • Place a bell on your pet’s collar so you’ll know when they are near your feet
  • Designate a play area for small children to prevent tripping over them or their toys

Not sure what shape your bones are in? You can get a comprehensive bone health assessment and plan to reduce the risks of fractures at Carilion Clinic’s Bone Health Clinic.

Its goal is to prevent recurrent fractures and increase bone health through medication, diet and exercise.

No one says it’s fun to get older, but with a little planning and care, you can stay active and keep living your life fully for many years.

And isn’t that what we all want?

Are you getting enough vitamin D?