November 2011 Edition - Health Matters

The latest news on the health and wellness issues that matter most • November 2011 Health Matters

Tips for Preventing Osteoporosis by Candace Rotolo

Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and the loss of bone density over time.

It may not be fair, but there’s a gender gap when it comes to osteoporosis. Women, especially those who are post-menopausal, are much more at risk of being afflicted with the disease, which causes bones to weaken, become brittle and break more easily.

enriched cereals, which all have high amounts of Vitamin D. Or take a supplement that has at least 400 IUs (international units). Giving up cigarettes also reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and,

chances are, quitting the habit will help you live longer, too.While you’re at it, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.Women should limit them- selves to one alcoholic drink per day. Finally, do some weight-bearing exercise.That doesn’t mean you need to pick up barbells, Piver notes.Walking, dancing or playing tennis will give your body what’s needed. Just be sure to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Unfortunately, many women have no idea they have osteoporosis until they suffer a frac- ture. “Usually it’s [the fracture] from an activity that wouldn’t normally cause bones to break,” Piver explains. That’s why she suggests that women have a bone density test by age 65—or once they be- come post-menopausal and have at least one or more risk factors, or are over 50 and have experi-

Other risk factors include being Caucasian or of Asian descent and having a family history of osteo- porosis. While there might not be anything you can do about those risk factors, there are five steps you can take, at any age, to decrease your chances of osteo- porosis, or at least the severity. For starters, get enough calcium. The average woman loses 1% of her bone mass every year be- ginning at age 30 to menopause; then the loss accelerates. According to Stephanie Piver, RN, Women’s Health Community Educator for NCH, only 10% of women get the calcium they need—the average adult needs at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily. For women (and men) over 50, that amount increases to

1,200 mg. You can increase your calcium by drinking more milk and eating other dairy products. Taking supplements is also an option, but be sure to take each dose before a meal for better absorption. Vitamin D is also essential in preventing osteoporosis.Most Ameri- cans don’t get enough vitamin D because we spend so much time indoors and use sunscreen when we go outside. “It’s a double-edged sword,” says Piver of sunscreen. While sun- screen is important, about 15 minutes of unfiltered sunshine a day can be beneficial. You can also eat more egg yolks, salmon, milk and

enced a broken bone, whichever comes first. She believes the best detection method is a Core Bone Density Test, which looks at the femur and hip region, where fractures most of- ten occur. This test is not always covered by insurance, however. Other tests are available, but may not provide as accurate a diagnosis. Osteoporosis may not be entirely preventable, but by taking a few simple steps, you can reduce your risk and severity of symptoms and get on the path to healthier living.

For more information, contact Stephanie Piver, NCH Women’s Health Community Educator, at (239)552-7571.

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