Osteoporosis is often called the “silent killer” because it can be present but go unknown to an individual until a bone has been fractured. With osteoporosis, “even simple movements such as bending over to pick up a bag of groceries or sneezing heavily can lead to fractures”. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, “1 in 3 women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, as will 1 in 5 men.”
Studies have shown that elderly patients who fractured bones had significantly lower levels of vitamin C in their blood than those who haven’t fractured. Bone mineral density- the thing that the tests measure, is higher in those who supplement with vitamin C, independent of estrogen level.
There is a combination of fixed and modifiable risk factors for osteoporosis. Although fixed risk factors cannot be changed, it’s important to be aware of them as pro-active measures can minimize risk.
Fixed Risk Factors
- Age – The risk increases with age as over 80% of all fractures in people 50+ are caused by osteoporosis.
- Gender – Females are more likely to develop osteoporosis, however men are susceptible to it as well.
- Family History
- Previous Fracture
- History of Falls
Modifiable Risk Factors
- Poor Nutrition
- Vitamin D Deficiency
- Calcium Deficiency
- Insufficient Physical Activity
- Low BMI
- Unhealthy habits
What Can You Do?
Eating a balanced diet is crucial to bone health as it ensures the body is getting the nutrients it needs. Fruits, vegetables, foods that are rich in calcium, vitamin D and protein are important. Micro-nutrients such as vitamin K, magnesium, zinc and carotenoids precursors to vitamin A act as key supporters to bone health. Some suggested food to help prevent osteoporosis is dairy products, tomato products, raisins, broccoli, oranges, red peppers, green peppers, strawberries, brussel sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes and bananas.
Vitamin K2 is well known among holistic practitioners to be important in cardiovascular and bone health. Supplementing this is also a good idea if bone or heart issues are a concern.
Regular exercise helps sustain mobility and independence which reduces risk of osteoporosis and falls. For seniors, their physical capability may limit them to perform certain sports or activities so a recommended exercise routine should include: strength training, posture training, balance training and weight bearing aerobic physical activity. These exercises should be customized based on physical ability and supervised by a caregiver if mobility is weakened. Physiotherapy can also treat osteoporosis
Watch Where You Sit and Sleep – Use higher chairs that are easier to sit down on and get out of. Or add a cushion to a lower one. Make sure they have armrests, which give you support when you stand up.
If your bed is very high or low, swap the mattress with one that’s a better height.
Talk to your doctor to see if they feel comfortable prescribing you osteoporosis medicine. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, there are many proven treatments that can help reduce the risk of fractures.
Avoid negative lifestyle habits
- Cut out smoking – “Smoking increases your risk of breaking a bone by 29% and suffering a hip fracture by 68%.”
- Keep alcohol and caffeine consumption to a moderate level – It’s okay to drink a glass or cup on a daily basis but excessive amounts can increase risk of fracture.
- Maintain a healthy BMI – A body mass index below 20 increases frailty and increases risk fracture substantially.