Osteoporosis and Rising Fracture Rates

Prevention is Key

A recent study published in the journal Bone indicates that bone fracture rates are likely to increase in the coming decades. The predictions are largely related to the incidence of osteoporosis among a large segment of the population that is aging, as well as an increase in sports-related fractures among young and active people. When it comes to any type of bone fracture, especially one involving the spine, the most common and debilitating symptom is severe pain.

This study also suggests that managing pain well is crucial to the proper healing of the fractured bone. Unfortunately, the common treatments prescribed to manage fracture pain can cause significant side effects, especially when used beyond the short-term or acute phase of pain. Though it is impossible to prevent EVERY risk associated with bone fractures, when it comes to osteoporosis, there is plenty that everyone can do to help minimize the risk of developing it.

What You Can Do to Prevent Osteoporosis

First, it should be understood that osteoporosis is NOT just a normal part of the aging process in humans. Rather, it is an irreversible and degenerative disease that results in bone loss over time. So when it comes to prevention, the younger one starts, the better off they’ll be later in life. But the truth is that it is NEVER too late. In order to protect your bones, one of the most important things you can do is to focus on what you eat. Unfortunately, the American diet falls far short of the recommended daily values of calcium and Vitamin D, both essential for strong bone health and density. Your diet must be well-balanced with an abundance of green leafy vegetables and fruit. Dairy sources such as milk, yogurt and cheese are sources high in calcium, while Vitamin D quantities are typically highest in sources of wild-caught fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

In addition to a well-balanced diet, regular exercise is important to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis and to keep bones strong. Focus on exercises that are both weight-bearing (think high-or-low-impact aerobics or walking/jogging) and muscle-strengthening (think weightlifting and exercise bands). Yoga and Pilates can also help to improve strength, balance and flexibility – essential ingredients in the prevention of bone fracture due to falls. The key is to engage in exercise that is ENJOYABLE so that you will be more likely to stick with it on a regular basis. Aim for at least three sessions a week if you’re just starting out with the goal of building up to five.

Finally, while it is important to incorporate a healthy diet and regular exercise into your osteoporosis prevention routine, there are some items to fully exclude or limit. These include smoking and alcohol. The chemicals in cigarettes have been widely studied as a significant contributor to bone loss as does heavy alcohol consumption. Talk to a doctor about a smoking cessation program if you need one and limit alcoholic beverage intake to no more than 2-3 drinks per day.

While this new study may predict a rise in osteoporosis-related fractures in the coming years, the situation isn’t hopeless and there is plenty each of us can do to reverse the trend.