When you think about staying healthy, you probably think about making lifestyle changes to avoid life-threatening conditions like cancer and heart disease. Keeping your bones healthy to prevent osteoporosis is probably not at the top of your wellness list. After all, breaking a bone might strike you as painful and inconvenient, but not necessarily as dangerous.
If your thinking runs along these lines, the following facts from the National Osteoporosis Foundation might make you think again:
Fact 1: Osteoporosis is the thinning of bone tissue and the loss of bone density over time.
Fact 2: The problem with osteoporosis isn’t just that it causes broken bones. The problem is that when you’re older, breaking a bone is serious. It often starts a downward spiral of pain, disability and the loss of independence.
Fact 3: Osteoporosis is a disease you can do something about. It can be prevented, detected and treated.
First, the bad news.
The U.S. Surgeon General reports that half of all women older than 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis. Up to one in four men will too. And breaking a bone when you’re older is serious. It can lead to immobility, which in turn can lead to isolation, depression and other health problems. More than 20 percent of seniors who break a hip will die within one year. Many of those who survive will need long-term nursing home care.
Now, the good news.
Thirty years ago, most people considered osteoporosis and broken bones to be a part of normal aging. That view has changed. Researchers today know a lot about how you can protect your bones throughout your life with nutrition and exercise. And although it’s never too late to start protecting your bones, the best time to begin is when you’re young.
But if you already have osteoporosis or are at risk for it, the good news is that in the last 15 years, researchers have developed effective new treatments for osteoporosis. They’re not a cure, but they can help, especially when you exercise and eat right.
Saint Mary’s Regional Health System invites you to learn more about osteoporosis prevention and treatment with Dr. Robert Thurlby at this month’s Vintage Club “Lunch with your Doctor.” Thurlby is an internal medicine specialist with Millard Henry Clinic – Dover, and will share his knowledge and expertise on this important topic on May 27th in the Saint Mary’s annex.