By Dr. Nora DeVoe, Ph.D.
Geriatric Care Manager


Keep Your Bones Healthy and Strong

About 10 million adults have osteoporosis and 44 million people who have low bone density are at risk for the condition. Osteoporosis can have serious ramifications, since it results in poor bone quality that increases the risk for fractures- but it is preventable and manageable with lifestyle strategies and medications if needed.

Age makes us susceptible to osteoporosis because as we get older bone remodeling (the constant breakdown of old bone and rebuilding of new bone) shifts out of balance, and more bone is broken down than is rebuilt. Gender is also key: in women, the drop in estrogen levels that accompanies menopause inhibits the formation of new bone. Other risk factors include a family history, sustaining a minimal trauma fracture, certain comorbidities such as overactive thyroid, gastrointestinal conditions that impede the absorption of calcium, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, taking medications that can weaken bones such as corticosteroids, and lifestyle factors such as a diet poor in calcium and vitamin D, drinking alcohol which impedes the absorption of calcium, smoking, and leading a sedentary lifestyle.

Older women are more likely to develop osteoporosis, but older men are by no means immune to the disease. They also tend to go undiagnosed since they are less likely than women to be referred for bone density screening. Risk factors that make men vulnerable include having female relatives with osteoporosis or parents who suffered hip fractures, along with taking steroids or prostate cancer drugs, gastrointestinal diseases, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Ensure that your diet supports your bones by consuming plenty of calcium. Not only does this mineral help build bones, it also helps the heart, muscles, and nerves function properly. If you do not get enough of it, your body will take calcium from your bones to compensate. The recommended daily calcium intake is between 1000-1200 mg per day for men and women. You also need to get sufficient Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium from the food you eat.

Weight bearing exercises or activities that force you to work against gravity, supporting your own body weight, also strengthen bones because it places them under stress, which stimulates remodeling. Medications, particularly biphosphonate drugs, may be prescribed for the management of osteoporosis. These drugs reduce the risk for hip and vertebral fractures. Biphosphonate drugs preserve bone strength by inhibiting bone breakdown.

Being proactive is one of the best ways to slow or prevent problems with your bones as you get older. Keeping your bones healthy and strong is very manageable and preventable through lifestyle strategies.

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Nora DeVoe is a Gerontologist specializing in Eldercare and Caregiver issues. She may be reached at (716) 667-7299.  

Dr. Nora is a ....