Chances are, unless you’ve broken one, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the health of your bones! However, since half of all women and one in five men will suffer at least one fracture from osteoporosis in their lifetimes, now is a great time to find out more about your risk of this life-altering and sometimes deadly disease. In recognition of National Osteoporosis Month, we invited Kathi Hoffer, Imaging Services Operations Manager at The Breast Care Center at YRMC, to the set of Your Healthy Kitchen to talk about the nutrients, foods, and lifestyle habits that protect women and men against bone loss. Kathi also shared some important news about DXA Scan, an effective, non-invasive testing tool that can detect osteoporosis in its earliest stages. YRMC offers DXA Scan services at two convenient locations: in Prescott at Prescott Medical Imaging and at the Breast Care Center in Prescott Valley.
Osteoporosis and its precursor, osteopenia, are silent diseases marked by the gradual loss of structure and strength in bones. Unfortunately, most people have no idea that their bones are in trouble until one breaks. While many fractures do heal, the process can be painfully slow and many people lose their ability to live independently as a result. The statistics for hip fractures are particularly frightening: 28% of women and 37% of men die from complications within a year of breaking a hip.
The good news: osteopenia and osteoporosis are preventable, treatable, and sometimes reversible conditions, so it’s important to speak with your healthcare providers about your risk. While osteoporosis can occur at any age, post-menopausal women and men over age 65 are at greatest risk. Other factors that can lead to weakened bones include a family history of osteoporosis, low body weight, poor diet (without adequate fruits, vegetables, calcium and vitamin D and high in sodium), history of one or more broken bones (especially in the wrist, hip or spine), a sedentary (not physically active) lifestyle, certain medications, and smoking (currently or in the past).
Kathi Hoffer states, “If you are at risk, your physician can order a DXA Scan to assess the strength of your bones. DXA is a simple, painless exam using a low level of radiation that calculates the mineral density of bone. Women often schedule their mammograms at the same time, completing two important, and potentially life saving exams in one appointment.”
While some risk factors, like gender, age and genetics can’t be changed, diet and lifestyle choices can! If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and are able to start moving more – do! Weight-bearing exercise like walking or hiking, dancing, strength training, or anything else that gets you on your feet more often will help you build stronger bones. Bones are smart! When you make physical demands on them, they respond and become denser and more resistant to fracture. However, it’s important to speak with your healthcare providers about the best exercise for you, especially if you have osteopenia or osteoporosis, as certain movements could increase your risk of fracture.
Calcium and vitamin D are both critically important nutrients for bone health, but so are vitamins C and K, magnesium, potassium and more. There is even a class of phytochemicals called carotenes that also appear to play a role in bone health. These include lycopene, which is concentrated in red and pink fruits and veggies; lutein, found predominantly in leafy greens; and zeaxanthin, found in orange peppers, mangoes, egg yolks, and oranges. Filling at least half of your plate at lunch and dinner with a variety of vegetables and fruits (think the colors of the rainbow) will help you get many of the nutrients your bones need. Magnesium-packed whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans are also important components of a bone-healthy diet, as are good sources of calcium, including greens, low fat dairy and calcium-fortified plant-based milks and juices.
In honor of National Osteoporosis Month, the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) has created a helpful interactive tool, 35 Ways to Stay Bone Strong. Each box links to a fact, resource or action you can take to protect your bones and to live a healthy, active life. The NOF also has a new podcast and blog, Bone Talk, which highlights a variety of issues related to osteoporosis and includes conversations with patients, healthcare providers, researchers, advocates, and more. For more information about YRMC DXA Scan services, call 928-771-7577.