Preventing osteoporosis — Starting early is key to building strong bones

By Ingrid Minge, PT, DPT

This story is featured in the Summer 2013 edition of myBoone Health magazine. Click here for a free subscription.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by a decrease in the amount of bone (low bone mass), a deterioration of the integrity of the structure of bone tissue (decreased bone density), and decreased bone strength.  This results in more fragile bones that fracture more easily.

minge, indgrid

Ingrid Minge, PT, DPT

Fractures in the spine and the hip are the most common fractures because of osteoporosis.  They can result in a decrease in quality of life, less independence, and increased costs because of doctor’s visits, hospital admissions and nursing home admissions.

It has been shown that only 33 percent of hip fracture patients are able to return to their previous activity level, nearly 30 percent of hip fracture patients are moved to nursing homes within a year, and the mortality rate is 15-20 percent within one year after a hip fracture.

Women are primarily affected by osteoporosis, but men are not immune. Women are usually diagnosed around or after menopause and men are usually affected later in life. People who take steroids or have certain diseases such as celiac or thyroid disease are also at risk. In addition, other risk factors include certain races, family history, and an individual’s frame size.  Aside from these specific risk factors, anyone who doesn’t get adequate nutrition or exercise is also at risk.

Prevention is critical for osteoporosis. We reach our peak bone mass around the age of 30, so the younger you start with adequate nutrition and exercise, the better.  It is best to build the largest bone mass possible when we are younger because after age 30, the goal changes to slowing the rate of bone loss.  In women, bone loss rate is highest 3-6 years after menopause due to a decrease in estrogen levels.

Some tips for obtaining adequate nutrition include eating a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables.  In doing so, you will most likely be getting an adequate amount of calcium.  Many people only think of calcium being found in dairy products, but you can actually get calcium from many foods including tofu, navy beans and fortified juices.

A good general guideline for total calcium intake is 1200 milligrams per day, although specific amounts can vary based on individual needs.  Be sure to speak with your physician about supplementation, as there are specific instructions for taking calcium carbonate including taking it with food and not in excess of 500 milligrams.

There have been several excellent studies that have shown exercise can increase bone mass.  In order to achieve these effects, the exercise needs to be specific.

Some good tips include doing weight bearing cardio exercise along with strength training.  The strength training that will actually allow for bone building to occur should be done with a particular amount of weights.  Not all exercises are appropriate for every person and it’s important to perform them correctly to prevent injuries.

It would be best to see a Physical Therapist at Boone Therapy so that you can have a program designed specifically for you.

Early detection is important because osteoporosis is a silent disease.  There are no outward signs or symptoms.

There are several services offered at Boone Hospital that can help with detection and treatment of osteoporosis including ultrasonometers used for screening, DEXA machine used for diagnosis, utilization of current medications, diagnostic radiologist devoted to osteoporosis, kyphoplasty used for fracture repair, licensed dieticians, and physical therapists at Boone Therapy trained in providing evidence based treatment.

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