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Osteoporosis: a silent disease

Friday, Nov. 1, 2019
 

Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to become thin and porous, decreasing bone strength and increasing the risk of breaking bones.

It’s often called a silent disease because you can’t feel your bones weakening. For some people, breaking a bone is the first sign of osteoporosis. Others notice that they are getting shorter or that their upper back is curving forward, causing them to consult a healthcare professional. If you are experiencing height loss or your spine is curving, you should definitely schedule an appointment with a clinician.

Am I at risk?

Some factors that may increase your risk of osteoporosis, falls and fractures include:

  • Older age
  • Being female (at least 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime)
  • Prior fragility fracture
  • Parental hip fracture
  • Taking certain medications such as corticosteroids
  • High alcohol intake
  • Current smoking

How is osteoporosis diagnosed?

Clinicians with Bone Fit training can review your health history and perform a physical examination to screen for certain conditions. In some cases, a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan may be required.

Generally, if you are over 65 years old it is recommended that you receive a BMD scan. Younger individuals with various risk factors, such as Cushing’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory conditions or other disorders or issues associated with rapid bone loss or fractures may also require BMD screening.

Treating osteoporosis through diet and supplementation

Osteoporosis must be addressed through a multi-faceted approach. It is important to talk to your doctor about the appropriate medications based on your health history and recommended dosage of calcium and vitamin D in your diet.

To give you an idea, adults over 50 generally require 1200mg of Calcium and about 800-2000 IU of Vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is also produced when the sun interacts with our skin. It helps with absorption of calcium and increases muscle function, which can improve your balance.

Exercise, exercise, exercise!

Initial bone “banking” starts at early puberty, which is the most crucial time to build bone mass. In our adult years (up to 30 years old) high impact and odd-impact loading sports can help us build bone mass. However, as we age, we lose the ability to increase bone mass and our body maintains bone mass with low magnitude bone strain.

Osteoporosis Canada recommends a multicomponent exercise program that includes resistance training in combination with balance retraining. They have created a guideline called “Too Fit to Fracture”.

  • Strength Training: At least 2 days per week. Examples: Working against resistance using exercise bands, weights, lifting your body against gravity or resistance training equipment.
  • Balance Exercises: 20 minutes daily. Examples: Tai Chi or a prescribed balance program by your physiotherapist.
  • Posture Awareness: Every day. Examples: Exercises that work on muscles in your back. Simple exercises include a simple yoga pose called Shavasana. A physiotherapist will help you work on these specific muscles.
  • Aerobic Physical Activity (Moderate to vigorous intensity): 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week. Examples: Weight-bearing physical activities like walking. Talk to a healthcare professional before you begin a new exercise program.

* If you have a spine fracture, you should consult a physical therapist/kinesiologist before using weights, and choose moderate, not vigorous aerobic physical activity.

Physiotherapists can develop an individualized exercise program and make activity recommendations based on your limitations and health history. Physiotherapists are well trained in making modifications and are passionate about helping you get back to life and your favorite activities!

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with a Lifemark clinician, check our Locations page to find a clinic near you or book online.

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