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Exercise, Nutrition Important to Fighting Osteoporosis

Physical activity and fitness reduce risk of osteoporosis and fracture and fall-related injuries.
Physical activity and fitness reduce risk of osteoporosis and fracture and fall-related injuries.

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May 23, 2011

Osteoporosis is one of the most challenging of senior conditions, many times leading to bone fractures and breaks. That's why older adults should found out from their doctor how to prevent this condition and seek support when needed.

Q. My 86-year-old mother has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and recently suffered a minor fracture. She still lives alone at home and doesn't believe that she needs any help. I'm worried that she is at greater risk. What can I do to convince her?

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis is a disease in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. If not prevented or if left untreated, osteoporosis can progress painlessly until a bone breaks. These broken bones, also known as fractures, occur typically in the hip, spine and wrist.

A fracture can be a very serious issue for a senior, according to a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study discovered that women and men age 60 years or older who have a low-trauma osteoporotic fracture have an increased risk of death for the following five to10 years, compared with the general population, and those who experience another fracture increase their risk of death further for an additional five years. Those seniors age 75 and older face increased risk of death from even a minor fracture.

Osteoporotic fractures represent a growing public health problem in both developed and developing countries, with a projected increasing incidence as the population ages. Bones become porous from osteoporosis as they lose protein, calcium and other mineral content. In this more fragile state, bones break easily.

Despite significant advances in science and medicine, the reality today is that:

  • Between 12 to 20 percent of people die within one year following a hip fracture.
  • It is estimated that 80 percent of those who are at high risk of osteoporosis, and have suffered at least one fracture, have neither been identified nor treated for the disease.

There is a range of drug treatment available for postmenopausal osteoporosis, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation. Different studies have consistently shown that, depending on the drug and the patient population, treatment reduces the risk of vertebral fracture by between 30-65 percent and of non-vertebral fractures by between 16-53 percent.

Both nutrition and exercise can help as well. Check out the following from the International Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Calcium supplementation has been shown to have a positive effect on bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplementation reduces rates of bone loss and also fracture rates in older male and female adults, and in seniors. In institutionalized older women, this combined supplementation reduced hip fracture rates.
  • Fruit and vegetable intake was positively associated with bone density in a study in men and women. The exact components of fruits and vegetables which may confer a benefit to bone are still to be clarified.
  • Higher levels of leisure time, sport activity, and household chores and fewer hours of sitting daily were associated with a significantly reduced relative risk for hip fracture.
  • Physical activity and fitness reduce risk of osteoporosis and fracture and fall-related injuries.

Consider the role of companionship as well. If your mom needs motivation to stay active, why not contact Home Instead Senior Care®. The company's CAREGiversSM are trained and equipped to provide assistance with meal planning and preparation, and activities.

For more information about osteoporosis, visit www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-and-statistics.html, and for more about the JAMA research go to http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/jaaj-oaw012909.php.

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