Just because you’re aging doesn’t mean that your quality of life should decline. At Central Maine Healthcare, we want to help you stay active and healthy throughout your lifespan and no matter your age. Osteoporosis is a condition that some people experience when they are 65 or older, and we offer a full range of treatments to help keep you strong.
While it seems like bone is totally solid, it’s actually living tissue that is constantly broken down and then rebuilt back up again by your cells. As we age, though, this process slows down and for some people even stops working correctly. Osteoporosis is when bone tissue is broken down by your cells, but then the bone isn’t built back up again. This makes bones weak and brittle, causing many types of symptoms especially the heightened possibility for fractures to happen.
Risks for Osteoporosis
Since osteoporosis is all about how dense or thick your bones are, some people are more at risk for osteoporosis than others. Women in general tend to get it more often than men, simply because their body frames are smaller and there is less bone tissue to work with. After menopause, hormone changes also cause bone breakdown at faster rates then pre-menopause, making women ages 65 and older more at risk. Smaller boned women, especially those with a white or Asian racial background, also tend to get osteoporosis at higher rates.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis starts long before you notice the symptoms. The foundation for future osteoporosis problems starts in our younger years and depends a lot on our lifestyles. As we age, bone density issues accelerate and become a real problem once we are over 65 years old.
Once osteoporosis sets in, here are many of the symptoms that might show up:
- Height loss: Caused by a general loss of bone tissue, vertebrae compress causing a loss of inches.
- Stooped posture: Osteoporosis tends to affect the spine the most, causing a loss of structure and support. Those with osteoporosis can start to get a “hunched back” that causes them to stoop over while sitting and walking.
- Back pain: The loss of support in the spine and the stooped posture can contribute to back pain. It’s also possible to have a fractured vertebra caused by osteoporosis that could make the back hurt.
- Easy bone breakage: If a fall easily causes a bone to break or if an everyday task causes a bone fracture, it’s likely connected to osteoporosis.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Osteoporosis
We recommend that women who are 65 years and older come in for a bone density scan. This state-of-the art screening is painless and takes less than 15 minutes to complete. The osteoporosis specialist will take low dose X-rays of the lower back and one hip. The scans will then be reviewed and sent to your primary doctor. Your doctor will then discuss the findings with you and help you decide which treatment option works best for you.
Treatment may include medications and changes in diet and lifestyle. Central Maine Healthcare has physical therapists who have specialized training in treating osteoporosis. They help patients in treating issues such as back pain and postural changes.
Prevention of Osteoporosis
While osteoporosis is related to old age, there are things you can do to reduce your risk significantly while you’re younger. Here are a few things to consider doing to keep your bones fit and healthy throughout your whole life.
- Exercise: Your bone density is directly impacted by how much exercise you get over your lifetime. The best kinds of exercises are the ones that build up your muscle strength (weight training), that are high impact (such as walking, running, and skiing), and that encourage balance (such as yoga and tai chi).
- Reduce sedentarism: Sit less and move more. Exercise is important, but so is activity. Get out and do fun things you enjoy. Start hobbies that involve physical activity, such as hiking, walking outside, or sports.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D are both very important nutrients for your bones. Not getting enough of either of these can be a big issue in osteoporosis.
- Eat enough protein: Protein is the building block of our bodies and our bones, so it’s important to always get enough through your diet.
- Check your medications: Some medications can cause a loss of bone density, so check with your doctor to see what risks you might have.
- Ask about other medical conditions: Other types of medical conditions, such as cancer and celiac disease, is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis. Check with your doctor to see what your risk is and how you can reduce it.
- Reduce alcohol consumption and quit smoking: Excessive amounts of alcohol can impair bone regeneration, so make sure to drink moderately throughout your lifespan. Tobacco has also been associated with osteoporosis, so it’s a great idea to quit smoking if you can. Talk with your doctor about these issues to get help in setting yourself up for lifelong health.