More than 34 million Americans live with osteoporosis, a condition that makes bones weak and fragile.
People who have it are a risk for breaking bones when they fall, with the most common injuries occurring to the wrist, hip and spine.
However, it’s possible to live with osteoporosis without experiencing fractures, says Dr. Felicia Cosman, an expert in the condition.
“You can live with osteoporosis for a long, long time and never have complications such as fractures – if you take certain precautions,” she tells WebMD.
If you’re concerned about osteoporosis and falls, here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:
1. Get more exercise
Adults between 19 and 64 should get 150 minutes of exercise each week. Aerobic activity and strength training – free weights, weight machines, elastic bands and calisthenics — can give you stronger bones and improve balance and coordination, thus reducing your risk of falling.
Your muscle strengthening activities should target all of the major muscle groups: legs, hips, abdomen, back, chest, arms and shoulders.
“I have one patient with osteoporosis who never exercised in her life, embarked on a gym program, and felt dramatically better after a few years,” Cosman said. “She was much stronger, had better balance, and reduced her number of falls. She really helped herself.”
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis – or if you’ve had a major fracture – it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before you exercise.
It’s also a good idea to try to live healthier. If you smoke, osteoporosis is a good reason to quit. Cigarettes are connected to an increased risk for osteoporosis. You may want to cut back on alcohol too. No more than two drinks a day.
2. Get more calcium
Calcium is vital for increasing your bone strength. If you’re younger than 50, or a man aged 50-70, you should try to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day. Women 50 and older and men 71 and older should aim for 1,200 milligrams a day.
This means you should try to eat three servings of calcium each day. You can find it in dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as tofu, leafy green vegetables, dried fruit, and calcium-fortified juices and cereals.
3. Get some vitamin D
In addition to calcium, you should also try to eat foods rich in Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. Some Vitamin D rich foods include egg yolks, liver, red meat, oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel) and liver. Aim for 10 milligrams a day. You may want to take a multivitamin.
In warmer months, get out and get some sun. Sunlight triggers Vitamin D production in your body.
4. Prevent falls
Osteoporosis and falls can be a painful combination, so reduce your risk by reducing your chance of falling at home.
Remove tripping hazards such as loose rugs and carpeting, electrical wires, curtain cords and uneven floorboards. Make sure your halls and bathrooms have a lot of lighting, and install grab bars in the bathtub. And if you can’t get to a hard-to-reach item, ask someone for help.
WebMD also points to a recent study that found that older adults who practiced tai chi reduced their risk of falling by nearly half.
5. Talk to your doctor
Ask your doctor when and how often you should have a bone density test conducted, and what – if any – bone-building medication you should take.
One way to sever the connection between osteoporosis and falls is to avoid the stairs. If you’re worried about going from floor to floor safely, consider installing a stair lift in your home.
A stair lift – like the ones sold and installed by Pennsylvania Stair Lifts – can allow you to continue to have full use of your home while reducing a serious hazard.
Contact Pennsylvania Stair Lifts today to find out how we can help make your home a safer place.