Healthy Bones, Healthier You! The Importance Of Maintaining Strong Bones

Sunday, 14 Apr 2013, 8:59:00 AM

Special To The Mirror

Dr. Alia Tuqan is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood.  For more information, call 310.319.4371 or visit www.uclahealth.org.
Courtesy image
Dr. Alia Tuqan is a board-certified geriatrician with the highly regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more information, call 310.319.4371 or visit www.uclahealth.org.

By Alia Tuqan, M.D.

May is designated “National Osteoporosis Awareness and

Prevention Month” to highlight the importance of maintaining strong, healthy

bones. But any month is a good time to think about bone health and

osteoporosis. 

Bone is a dynamic, vital organ composed of the minerals

calcium and phosphorus, collagen, other proteins and two types of cells: ones

that build bone and others that break it down.  

In children and young adults until their mid-20s, the

bone-creating cells build it faster than the other cells destroy it. In adults,

there is a balance between bone created and bone destroyed. As adults age,

however, they can develop an imbalance when some cells break down bone faster

than others build it, leading to thinning, porous bones. 

Osteoporosis is a disorder caused by abnormal thinning

of bone. People with osteoporosis are at increased risk of fractures.

Compression fractures – small breaks in the vertebrae – and hip fractures after

falls are unfortunate consequences. 

Screening

The most common screening for osteoporosis is called a

DEXA scan. All guidelines recommend screening post-menopausal women age 65 or

older because they are at highest risk for osteoporosis and fractures.  

Although there are no universally accepted screening

guidelines for men in this age group, they also may be screened for

osteoporosis, as well as younger women with certain risk factors.

Treatment

There are several types of medications used to treat

osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures. The most common class of medications is called bisphosphonates, such as

alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva), and risedronate (Actonel).

For those who cannot tolerate these types of

medications, there are other treatment options. 

Reducing Fall Risk

If you have osteoporosis, here are practical ways to

reduce your risk of falls:

• Stay physically (and mentally) strong with regular

exercise. Always talk to your doctor

about exercise routines. 

• Reduce clutter and keep walkways clear.

• Walk in well-lit areas.

• Avoid rugs or, if you do use them, make sure they have

non-slip backings or pads.

• Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.

• Use assistive devices, such as canes and walkers, if

recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.

• Review medications with your doctor and pharmacist to

see if any of them can cause dizziness that leads to falls.

• Watch your alcohol consumption. Intoxication can

affect walking and cause falling.

Prevention

These tips can help maintain strong, healthy bones and

prevent osteoporosis:

• Eat a diet rich in calcium. Foods high in calcium include milk, yogurt

and other dairy products; spinach, kale and other green vegetables; almonds,

other nuts and sunflower and sesame seeds; and soy milk, tofu and other

calcium-fortified products.

• Load up on vitamin D. Sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, but increases skin-cancer

risk. Vitamin D-rich foods include oily

fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines; mushrooms; and vitamin

D-fortified milk and juice. 

• Talk to your doctor about supplements if your diet is

deficient in calcium and vitamin D.

• Exercise regularly, after checking with your doctor

about safe, age-appropriate exercise regimens.

• Get regular check-ups. Your doctor will monitor for conditions that increase your osteoporosis

risk and recommend screening, if appropriate.

• Stop smoking. 

• Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. 

• Review medications with your doctor to determine if any increase

your osteoporosis risk.  

Follow these simple steps for healthy bones – and a

healthier you! 

Dr. Alia Tuqan is

a board-certified geriatrician with the highly regarded UCLA Geriatrics Program

in Santa Monica and Westwood. For more

information, call 310.319.4371 or visit www.uclahealth.org.

Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.