Bone up on osteoporosis


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Whether you’re lifting a child, swinging a golf club, driving a car or simply breathing, every move you make depends on your bones. Although we may not realize this on a daily basis, when they do fail or break, we quickly learn how much we depend on them. We sat down with Dr. Milad Abusag, endocrinologist with Mercy Health, to learn more on how we can prevent and maintain life after osteoporosis.

Dr. Abusag says that although we may not realize, people can take steps to prevent bones from weakening. “Without regular preventive care, our bones may weaken and the impact in our daily lives can be significant,” he said.

It is estimated that 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, a condition where bones have weakened and become brittle. In addition, an additional 43.4 million are at-risk due to low bone density.

What causes bones to weaken?

“The human body is constantly recycling bony tissue, breaking down old bone and creating new. The speed of this process depends on age, diet, hormone levels, heredity and many other factors,” Dr. Abusag said.

When bone tissue breaks down faster than the body can replace it, the bones gradually become porous and brittle. People with osteoporosis can break bones while climbing stairs, bending over or in some severe cases, even sneezing.

While osteoporosis affects all bones, the wrist, back and hips are especially vulnerable to fractures.

“Hip fractures in particular carry a high risk of disability in people over 50. About 25 percent of older hip-fracture patients require long-term nursing care, and 66 percent do not regain their function,” said Dr. Abusag.

Other effects of osteoporosis include postural changes such as slumped shoulders, a curved back and decreased height. Social and emotional effects include loss of mobility, independence as well as concerns about physical appearance and functionality.

Because osteoporosis has few outward symptoms, the condition often goes undetected and untreated. It is important to know your personal risk, get regular preventive care and take steps now to build strong bones.

If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, treatment focuses on improving bone health and reducing the risk of complications. Medications and physical therapy can help preserve existing bone tissue and prevent future fractures.

Fight bone loss by eating a diet rich in calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients, quit smoking and cut down on alcohol consumption. Talk with your physician about whether calcium or other nutrition supplements are a good choice for you.

Weight-bearing exercise also helps keep bones strong. Do a few activities each week that force you to work against gravity such as walking, running, gardening or yoga.

Although osteoporosis affects a variety of ages and both genders, women who are post-menopausal are one of the most common group to suffer from weakened bones. Mercy Health offers a free, downloadable guide for post-menopausal women.

To find this guide and to schedule an appointment with a Mercy Health Physician such as Dr. Milad Abusag, visit www.mercy.com.

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