CLEVELAND – May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month.
Osteoporosis – a disease where bones become weak and brittle – impacts one-in-four women age 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cleveland Clinic’s Abby Abelson, M.D., said bone health often flies under the radar and can become critical to someone’s independence as they age.
“Losing bone strength is frequently the one thing that makes somebody have to go to a nursing home and give up their independence, or be unable to participate in the activities that they love so much – like caring for their families, lifting up their grandchildren, playing golf, playing tennis, being active – all the things that make our lives worthwhile,” said Dr. Abelson.
According to Dr. Abelson, habits that build strong bones start in childhood and set the stage for future bone health.
First, she said a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for building bone.
For adults, 1,200 milligrams of calcium is sufficient each day; while about 800 units of vitamin D is adequate for most.
Foods rich in calcium include milk, cheese, fortified orange juice, spinach and kale.
Vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight, obtained from supplements, and found in foods like salmon, tuna and eggs.
Dr. Abelson also recommends activities that put stress on bones to stimulate bone growth – even a brisk walk produces enough stress to build bone.
It’s also important to avoid smoking, excessive amounts of alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle because these habits have a negative impact on bone health.
There are medications available to help reduce the risk of bone fracture for people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Dr. Abelson said some people are hesitant to take certain osteoporosis medicines because of rare complications they’ve heard, or read, about. She said these medications work best when taken as prescribed, therefore, it’s important to discuss benefits and risks with a health care provider.
“Those risks are so unlikely and they’re much less than your risk of having a hip fracture,” she said. “So work with your doctor about timing of medication, timing of procedures, as well as making sure that everybody really understands that we’re trying to prevent future fractures.”