AVOIDING OSTEOPOROSIS by Maria A. Salonia

According to the Center of Disease Control osteoporosis (porous bone) is a disease characterized by low bone mass, deterioration of bone strength which leads to fragile bones and increases the chance of bone fractures. Osteoporosis has become a major public health threat for an estimated 44 million Americans, or 55% of the population 50 years of age and older.  80% of those affected by osteoporosis are women with 20 % of men developing the disease. After the age of 50, osteoporosis-related fractures will occur in: 1 of 2 white/Asian women; 1 of 4 black women; 1 of 4 white men; 1 of 8 black men. These numbers are surprisingly very high.

     Here is some important information from The National Osteoporosis Foundation which provides the following data on known risk factors for developing osteoporosis: Family history of osteoporosis or broken bones, Being small and thin, Low calcium and vitamin D intake in your diet, excessive intake of protein, salt and caffeine, smoking, alcohol abuse, taking certain medications such as steroid medications and inactive lifestyle.

     One of the risk factors mentioned above is insufficient amounts of calcium. A deficiency in your daily calcium intake can contribute to developing osteoporosis. Did you know that 99% of the calcium in your body is actually contained in the skeleton? Only a small amount of calcium is required for muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and other functions of the body. So, calcium plays a big role is limiting your risk factor. Just in case you're unsure of good sources of calcium, here are just a few: dairy products such as low fat or nonfat milk, cheese, yogurt, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, soy beverages, tofu products and almonds.

     In addition to physical therapy treatment programs specifically designed for patients suffering with osteoporosis, attention needs to be given towards preventing falls. Fall prevention is very important if you have osteoporosis because your bones may break easily, and bones thinned by osteoporosis are slower to heal after they have been broken. Of course, not all falls can be prevented but there are some preventive measures you can take. Here are some very good tips:

* Have your vision and hearing checked regularly. With poor vision and hearing, you can miss important cues that help you keep your balance.

* Exercise regularly to improve our strength, muscle tone, and a sense of balance.

* Be sure to ask your physician about any side effects of medications you are taking, and ask whether they can affect your sense of balance.

* Immediately call your physician if you feel dizzy and lose your balance.

* Wear shoes that fit well and give you good support. 

* Wear slippers and shoes with nonskid soles.

* When going outdoors: Use a cane or a walker if needed. Walk on the grass when the sidewalks are slippery.

     Now that we have given you some good tips on fall prevention, there are some changes you can make in your home to further reduce your risk of falls.  Start by removing raised doorway thresholds, throw rugs, and clutter. Be sure to repair loose carpet or raised areas in the floor that may cause you to trip. Rearrange furniture and electrical cords to keep them out of walking paths.  Use nonskid floor wax and wipe up spills immediately. It's important to keep stairways, porches, and outside walkways well lit. Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms. Place nonskid mats inside and outside your shower/tub and near the toilet. Try to store items within easy reach so you do not need to reach overhead for them. Finally, keep a cordless phone, a flashlight and new batteries by your bed. 

     Physical Therapists are experts in evaluating and designing treatment programs for persons with osteoporosis. Education of safe movement along with stretching, weight bearing and resistive strength programs are proven over time to improve osteoporosis and increase bone mass. While it's important to perform a full body exercise program, the key is to focus on those areas that have a high chance of having a fracture due to osteoporosis: hips, spine and wrists.       Posture, body mechanics, improvement of balance and fall prevention is also a key component in reducing the risk of fracture. Remember to avoid exercises with excessive spine forward bending (e.g. abdominal crunches), excessive spine and hip compression forces (e.g. squats with weights on your shoulders in a standing position), excessive spine and hip rotation (e.g. trunk rotation weight machines) and activities that are too difficult to keep good balance. A few good exercises to start with are (always remember to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program): Squats against the wall, Bridges, Arm/leg lifts laying on your stomach and Standing one foot balance.

     Call us for a free, illustrated copy of these exercises. Speak to your doctor about starting a physical therapy program to build your bone health. Most insurances will cover physical therapy so call South Bay Sports & Physical Therapy (631) 842-4606 and start taking the road to building healthy bone.