Getting Down to the Bones | Osteoporosis and Preventing Falls


Getting Down to the Bones | A 5 Point Plan for Preventing Osteoporosis and Falls 

When we think of falls, a fracture is the result that causes the most dread. Most often, fall-related fractures are in the hip, pelvis, spine, arm, hand, or ankle. Hip fractures are one of the most serious types of fall injuries and they are a leading cause of injury and loss of independence among older adults. So, let’s get down to the bones of it. How do we protect our bones?

How to Improve Your Bone Health & Prevent Falls:

A plan to improve and maintain your bone health as you age has five main components: 1. Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D in your Diet 2. Doing Weight-Bearing and Muscle Strengthening Exercises 3. Keeping a Healthy Lifestyle & Habits 4. Talking to Your Primary Doctors 5. Improving your Balance

The Good News

The good news is that our bodies are built for renewal. In fact, the human body rebuilds itself, cell by cell, every 7 years. Just like any good builder it requires quality building materials and cues from the inhabitants about how they use the space. How we use our bodies tells it what is important and what is not a priority. For example, if we are not physically active and bearing weight in our daily activities, our bodies take the cue and don’t rebuild strong bones. Why waste energy building strong bones if they are not being used?

Do Weight Bearing and Muscle-Strengthening Exercises

Taking a brisk walk is very good for bones. Don’t let your body become too accustom to the same routine though. Mix up your exercises by taking an exercise class, joining a hiking group or taking on a new hobby like dancing. Resistance bands, a medicine ball or light dumbbells can be a great companion to activities. Shoot to exercise the recommended 2 ½ hours a week for strong bones. Activities such as swimming may not be the best choice for bone health as bearing weight is the key component. 

The Bad News

The bad news is that Osteoporosis is a common disease of the bones that happens when you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from even a minor fall, sneezing, or bumping into furniture. Listen up ladies, because according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five-to-seven years after menopause. In fact, while about 1.5 million men have osteoporosis, 7.5 million women suffer from the disease. About half of all women age 50+ will break a bone due to osteoporosis.   

Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D Every Day

Equally important to regular activity is giving your body the right nutrients that we get from our diet and supplemental vitamins. As we age our nutritional needs change over time. Make sure you check with your doctor about the proper supplements you should be taking for your age/ gender. Vitamin D and Calcium are crucial to building strong bones. We need to eat like our life depends on it. Here are a few calcium-rich foods that you may not immediately think of to work into your diet:  

  • Sesame Seeds
  • Red Peppers
  • Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
  • Kale
  • Tofu
  • Soymilk
  • Soybeans

When eating the usual suspects for calcium, like yogurt, milk and cheese, choose low fat options. Swiss, Ricotta, or Mozzarella have high calcium content among cheeses.

Develop and Keep Healthy Lifestyle Choices

One of the most important gifts you can give to your body is to stop unhealthy habits. This can include smoking, heavy consumption of alcohol, eating large quantities of salty or processed foods. Replace bad habits with a positive activity and seek help for developing new habits and stopping old ones.

Talk to Your Doctor About Your Bone Health

Your physician is your partner in maintaining a healthy life. Make an appointment with your family doctor to talk about bone health, your family history and what tests may be necessary in your specific situation. A bone density test is the most common. Develop a plan together to protect and manage your bone health as you age.

Improve your Balance to Prevent Falls

Along with bone health, having excellent balance can dramatically reduce the risk of falls as you age. Include balance training exercises in your regular routine to strengthen muscles, bones and joints that keep you stable. Tai Chi or Yoga are excellent low-impact exercises that build stability and flexibility. Try adding a Bosu ball to your workout for added balance training. Click Here to view a short video of seniors talking about their experience with Tai Chi.  

Remember, people with osteoporosis cannot feel their bones getting weaker, and many people do not know they have osteoporosis until they break a bone. It is never too early or too late to form healthy habits to protect your bones and reduce the risk of a fall.  

Published on September 5, 2013.