Bone Health Basics

Kim Faught, RN

Did you know that your bones are not hard and lifeless? They are actually living, growing tissue made up of 3 different materials that make them strong and flexible:

  • Calcium: makes bones flexible
  • Calcium-phosphate mineral complexes: make bones strong and hard
  • Living bone cells: remove and replace weakened sections of bone

You have the greatest amount of bone between the ages of 18-25. The more bone you have during these years, the less likely you are to break a bone or develop osteoporosis later in life. As you age, you begin to lose more bone than you make. Bone loss increases in women after menopause when estrogen levels decrease. In fact, women can lose 20% of their bone density during the first 5-7 years after menopause. This bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, a condition where you lose too much bone, make too little bone, or both. Menopause is the time to take action against osteoporosis. If you have experienced menopause, ask your physician about your risk for osteoporosis. Touro for Women is here to help you keep your bones healthy for life.

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What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis is a bone disease where you lose too much bone, make too little new bone, or a combination of both. This leads to weak bones that may break easily. As you age and your bones become less dense, they become weaker and more likely to break.

Osteoporosis is called a silent disease and can sneak up on you. Breaking a bone is serious and is often the first sign of osteoporosis. Other signs are getting shorter or your upper back curves forward. If you are experiencing any of these signs, call your physician. Touro for Women physicians are conveniently located throughout New Orleans.

Risks for Osteoporosis and Detecting Osteoporosis

There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Uncontrollable risk factors include:

  • Female
  • Over 50 years old
  • Menopause
  • Family history of osteoporosis
  • Small, thin frame
  • History of non-trauma broken bones
  • Height loss

Controllable risk factors include:

  • Not getting enough calcium or vitamin D
  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • Eating too much protein, sodium, and caffeine
  • Not exercising and leading an inactive lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Significant weight loss

Touro for Women encourages you to talk to your physician about your risk factors.

Bone density scanning, also called DXA, is a form of x-ray that measures bone loss. This test can evaluate your risk for developing bone fractures. Your risk for fracture is affected by age, body weight, previous history of fracture, family history of osteoporosis, and lifestyle such as smoking and excessive alcohol use. Bone density scans can help you and your physician determine:

  • If you have weak bones before you break a bone
  • Your risk for breaking a bone
  • If your bone density is improving, worsening, or staying the same
  • How well your osteoporosis medication is working
  • If you have osteoporosis after you break a bone

Touro Imaging at Prytania, 3439 Prytania, located across the street from Touro Infirmary, and Touro Imaging Center, 2929 Napoleon Avenue, offer bone density screening to evaluate for bone loss. If you are age 65 or older, ask your physician to order a bone density scan. If you are looking for a physician, Touro physicians are conveniently located throughout New Orleans.

Preventing Osteoporosis through Healthy Living for Your Bones

Even though your risk for osteoporosis increases after menopause, there are steps to take throughout your life to prevent osteoporosis.

Before menopause: Make calcium and vitamin D an important part of your diet. Smoking and excessive alcohol intake should be avoided. Weight-bearing exercise and strength training should become part of your daily routine.

Menopause to age 64: Talk to your doctor about your risk of developing osteoporosis. Ask your doctor about bone density screening if you have at least one risk factor for osteoporosis or if you have broken a bone as an adult.

Age 65 and older: Have a bone density scan every 2 years to evaluate the condition of your bones and to determine if you have osteoporosis. Calcium and vitamin D are important parts of your diet. Weight-bearing exercise and fall prevention are important ways to protect your bones.

Healthy aging includes taking care of your bones. Every woman is at risk for developing osteoporosis. These tips can help you maintain strong and health bones.

  • Eat enough calcium: Makes strong bones. Women under the age of 50 should consume 1000mg Calcium daily. Women over the age of 50, pregnant, and breastfeeding women should consume 1300mg Calcium daily.
  • Get enough vitamin D: Helps the body absorb calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include 15 minutes of early afternoon sun, 3-4 glasses of milk, frequent servings of fish and fortified cereals.
  • Exercise: Engage in walking, jogging, or dancing and strength training exercises for 150 minutes each week.
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Stop smoking

As you age, fall prevention is the best way to prevent broken bones. Some practical safety tips include:

  • Exercise to improve muscle strength and tone and keep joints flexible.
  • Have your vision and hearing tested annually.
  • Do not change positions or get up too quickly because this may cause dizziness.
  • Be careful when walking on uneven surfaces and wet sidewalks.
  • Wear well-fitting, supportive rubber-soled shoes or low heels.

Most falls occur in the home. Here are some tips to make your home safer.

Stairs, Halls, and Pathways Safety:

  • There should have good lightening and be free from clutter that may cause you to trip and fall.
  • Carpet should have a rough texture and be firmly attached without buckling. Area rugs should be secured with adhesive backing strips to keep them from moving.
  • Handrails should be tightly secured and run the entire length along both sides of the stairs.
  • Have light switches at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Bathroom Safety:

  • Install grab bars in the tub/shower and near the toilet.
  • Place non-skid mats or abrasive safety strips in and around the tub/shower.

Bedroom Safety:

  • Install a night light or place a lamp or light switch within reach of the bed.
  • Have the telephone near the bed.

Living Area Safety:

  • Keep walking areas free of clutter, electrical cords, and telephone wires.
  • Keep rugs secured.
  • Have sofas and chairs at the proper height to get into and out of easily.

Exercise for Bone Health 

Weight-bearing and strengthening exercises are important for building bone density and preventing osteoporosis. High impact weight-bearing exercises build strong bones. These include: dancing, high impact aerobics, hiking, jogging, jumping rope, stair climbing, and tennis. Check with your physician before starting high impact exercises, especially if you are at risk for breaking a bone.

Low impact weight-bearing exercises are safe alternatives and also build strong bones. These include: elliptical machines, low impact aerobic, stair climber machines, and fast walking.

Strengthening exercises move your body, weights, or some other resistance against gravity. These include: lifting weights, elastic exercise bands, weight machines, and lifting your own body weight.

Join Touro Dietitians for our monthly healthy lifestyles seminar. September’s class will cover how nutrition impacts bone health.
>> Click here for Healthy Living: Nutrition and Bone Health

Kim FaughtKim Faught, RN, is Women’s Services Director at Touro Infirmary. Kim graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1980 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Kim has 35 years of experience in all aspects of women’s healthcare, including hospital and clinic operations. Kim’s goal is to provide coordinated, comprehensive, and compassionate services to women.

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