Dr. Elizabeth Clay is a Family Medicine specialist who practices at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center.

Focus on Heath: Preventing bone loss is critical to health and longevity

Posted at 2:40 PM on May 7, 2017

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Special to SVLfreenews.com

If you’re age 50 or better, and your physician has recommended adding a bone-density screening to your yearly physical, be sure to follow through.

Osteoporosis is often referred to as a “silent disease,” due to its common occurrence and invisible symptoms. Nearly 10 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be living with osteoporosis, while another 34 million with low bone mass are at risk of developing the disease.

“Our research tells us that as many as one in every two women over 50 may be living with significant bone loss,” said Dr. Elizabeth Clay, a Family Medicine specialist who practices at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center. “Untreated, this can lead to loss of mobility, independence and overall quality of the second half of life.”

Bone is living tissue that is in a constant state of regeneration as the body naturally removes old bone and replaces it with new bone. By the mid-30s, most people begin to slowly lose more bone than can be replaced and bones become thinner and weaker in structure. This process typically speeds up in women at the time of menopause, and in men around the age of 70.

While risk factors such as aging or being female and/or Caucasian cannot be controlled, several lifestyle risk factors can degrade bone strength as well as other vital organs and functions.

Steps you can take to preserve your bone density include:

• Stop smoking: Nicotine is a significant contributor to accelerated bone loss. If you need help quitting, ask your physician for tools you can use.
• Limit alcohol consumption: Your bones will join your heart, liver, kidneys and blood, to thank you for drinking no more than 1-2 drinks per day.
• Maintain calcium levels: With controversy around possible dangers of calcium supplementation, it’s best to get your calcium from food. Leafy greens like kale are the best source of calcium, but sardines, broccoli and high-quality yogurt or kefir are good options.
• Maximize Vitamin D levels: The best source of Vitamin D is the sun. It’s important to have your D levels checked annually, especially in the winter. If supplementation is needed, choose a high quality D3 supplement with a small amount of vitamin K2 to ensure proper absorption.
• Bear some weight: Regardless of your age, participate in some type of weight-bearing exercise at least three times per week. Walking with hand weights, yoga, or Pilates with stretch bands are simple and easy on the joints.

You can learn if you have osteoporosis through a quick and painless test that measures bone mineral density—sometimes called BMD. Results are compared with the BMD of a young, healthy person’s bones, with a measure called a T-score. If your T-score is below 2.5 (Osteoporosis) then you most likely need treatment. If your T-score is between -1.0 and -2.5 (Osteopenia), a FRAX score is determined to see if you need treatment.

Keep in mind that certain medications and/or chronic conditions can cause osteoporosis, including the regular or prolonged use of corticosteroids. If you have a medical condition that requires ongoing treatment, be sure to talk to your physician about using medications that minimize bone loss as a potential side effect.

“If you or a family member are living with osteoporosis, it’s critical to put some additional safeguards in place,” said Dr. Clay. "For many older adults, the condition is manageable until the patient experiences a fall. If you’re dealing with bone loss, remove obstacles in the home that can lead to falls. If necessary, use a walking support, modify bath and shower facilities, and opt for a single-level living environment.”

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