B ones and Their Health. As some of you may know if you follow me on instagram (@doctor.vero), I recently volunteered at the West Kendall Health Fair provided by DOCs and PHSA which are two organizations from the University of Miami, in which medical students and public health students volunteer their time to do a variety of health screenings such as blood tests, female exams, physical therapy, bone scans, pediatric education, cardiology, etc.
A few of these stations have practicing physicians to do the necessary tests such as PAP Smears, and blood draws.
My station was bone density. Many people don’t realize the value of a simple station such as this one, so I have decided to write this post to talk a bit about osteoporosis and a few important things about it, like who is at risk, and things you can do to PREVENT it before it happens and even prevent it from getting worse.
First, what does OSTEOPOROSIS even mean?
Osteoporosis means porous bone. Don’t forget that bone carries all the weight of your body. If you have porous bone, then the bone is not as strong….in fact the bone is weak. Like all things strong, if they hit the ground, they are less likely to break. Similarly, if something is weak, its can break easily. This is why having porous bones (osteoporosis) is dangerous.
If for any reason you fall, or hit yourself, or trip and land on your hands and knees, you can break a bone; Like your wrists or knees and even your hip or spine. Sometimes, even just from the weight, the spine can erode a bit. You can lose some height AND it can create a curve in your spine making it impossible to stand straight.Scary right?
Females are more at risk than males to develop osteoporosis. BUT WHY US? Like most things among us.. it come down to our hormones. Pesky hormones! Estrogen is very important to maintaining bone strength. As we all know, as we age, we begin to produce less and less estrogen until we hit MENOPAUSE. After menopause, the lack of estrogen leaves our bones at risk of bone loss. How? Estrogen of like a bouncer standing between osteoblasts and the bone. This is a bit sciency, but osteoBLASTS are cells that break down bone. Think of them as the people in line to get into a club, the bone is the club. Estrogen is the bouncer between the people and the club. If Estrogen (the bouncer) is present… less people go into the club. Meaning less bone is attacked by osteoblasts.. less bone is broken down. After menopause, estrogen is gone, so there is nothing protecting the bone from the osteoblasts. This promotes bone loss, which is why menopause is a huge risk factor and why being female increases your risk.
After your early 20s bone density begins to decline slowly and steadily in both men and women. In women, menopause causes quicker bone loss, but once women are older than 65 the bone loss declines at the same rate as in men.
Osteoporosis is most common among non-hispanic white females. Being of Hispanic or African American decent is protective. BUT osteoporosis is a disease of old age as well, so it affects ALL RACES as people get older.
If your parents have had any fractures especially hip fracture, it increases your own risk of both bone fractures and hip fractures, separate from your bone density.
I know I know, it all sounds bad and gloomy and like I often joke… “it’s all downhill from here”. But don’t worry! There are things you can DO NOW to PREVENT bone loss and PROTECT yourself from fractures when you’re older. So lets get into it quickly before you think all hope is lost.. because in reality… there is so much you can do to help your bones!
So what if you are already diagnosed with osteoporosis? You can’t reverse it, BUT you can prevent further damage… you can also make sure you improve your stability to prevent falls at decrease your risk of injury and bone fractures.
To prevent bone loss and prevent further bone loss the best thing you can do is:
Yes, you can also take the medications you are prescribed, as prescribed. BUT you can also engage in exercise.
This is what is important to know:
The TYPE of exercise you do actually matters. Your bones are the backbone of your muscles. Your bones, adapt to maintain your muscles. Wait what? If you have bigger, stronger muscles, your bones will also grow so you can sustain those muscles. Muscle strength leads to bone strength. So anything that improves your muscle strength will help your bones.
Swimming is a great exercise no doubt, so is biking… BUT these are not considered to be most beneficial for your bones. They’re great for your heart health.. but not the best for your bone health. The most beneficial are actually RESISTANCE EXERCISES. Those that make your body work AGAINST GRAVITY.
- Weight training
- Dancing! (I’m a fan I’m sure you know that by now)
- CLIMBING STAIRS.. (plus its good for your booty) .
BUT AS I ALWAYS SAY
Before starting ANY exercise, get a clean bill of health from your doc. If you have osteoporosis avoid exercises that make you twist or bend your spine too much.. so careful with that acro yoga. Avoid high impact exercises like jumping with hard landings etc. You want to protect your bones by exercising, not increase your risk of injury.
If you can, find a fitness instructor who can direct you properly on how to do all kinds of exercises the safe way for your bones. Look for someone who specializes in things like exercise physiology, and physical therapy. They would know how to help you the most.Also, make sure you do exercises that improve your balance as well, such as tai chi and yoga. But be sure to do the yoga in a safe way to prevent bone fractures.