“ An osteoporosis diagnosis is very important to address because it can impact your wellbeing and livelihood.” - Nadia Javaid, MD, Saint Agnes Care
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 10 million Americans have osteoporosis. Because women tend to have bones that are smaller and less dense than men’s and lose bone more quickly, females account for 80 percent of the nation’s osteoporosis sufferers.
The bone-weakening disease makes women vulnerable to potentially devastating fractures of the hip, spine and wrist, particularly after menopause; you can lose up to 30 to 50 percent of your bone mass during the next decade. An additional 34 million American women have a condition called osteopenia, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation: bone mass that’s significantly lower than normal, putting them at high risk for osteoporosis.
“An osteoporosis diagnosis is very important to address because it can impact your well-being and livelihood,” says family practice physician Nadia Javaid, MD, of Saint Agnes Care. It can also be deadly. An estimated 20 percent of seniors who break a hip die within one year from complications or the surgery to repair it. The good news? Osteoporosis and its devastating fractures are preventable. What can you do to keep your bones strong? Here are three ways to help ward off osteoporosis, based on the latest advances in treatment and prevention.
Ask your doctor about new bone-saving drugs.
It’s common to think of bones as being static and unchanging, but they’re far from it. Bones are composed of living tissue that’s constantly in flux. Medications that can slow bone loss and help build bone density have become doctors’ treatments of choice for osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Tymlos (abaloparatide) is one of the most recent to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. The drug, which comes in injectable pen form, contains a version of parathyroid hormonerelated peptide (PTHRP), which works to stimulate osteoblasts—cells that make new bone tissue. “Tymlos is not considered to be first line treatment for patients with osteoporosis but may be a good option for patients with severe osteoporosis,” says Dr. Javaid. You’ll need to give yourself a daily injection for up to two years, which is the lifetime limit of the drug. (In the works is a third drug, romosozumab, which hasn’t yet been FDA approved. It likely won’t have a two-year limitation.)
After two years, you would need to switch to another medicine, such as Fosamax (alendronate sodium), Actonel (risedronate sodium) or the newest, Prolia (denosumab), to avoid losing the bone you’ve built. These medications decrease the risk of fracture by slowing the breakdown of bone.
Focus on strength training.
Studies show that 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise, such as strength training, three times a week can maintain bone mass and slow bone loss at any age. Studies have shown weight-bearing exercise decreases hip fractures in females and overall fractures in older adults. “I often recommend patients to do an exercise that they find enjoyable so they are more likely to be compliant with the regimen,” says Dr. Javaid.
A new Australian study called LIFTMOR, published in Osteoporosis International, subjected women with low bone mass to a supervised yet rigorous strength training program, and found that it was safe and effective for increasing bone density. “It’s an early idea, but we may be able to recommend even more intense exercise, even among older adults,” Dr. Javaid says.
Feed your bones well.
Getting plenty of calcium is one of the best ways to head off osteoporosis and fractures because calcium is the raw material of bone. From age 19 to 50, aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily and 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 (which helps the body absorb calcium) from food and/or a calcium/vitamin D3 supplement. If you’re 51 to 70, try to get 1,200 mg of calcium and 800 to 1,000 IUs of vitamin D3.
But keep in mind that bone health isn’t just a calcium/vitamin D issue. To rebuild themselves, bones also need protein, phosphorous and a whole host of other nutrients that only eating a variety of foods can provide. Think of eating well as making deposits in your bone bank account. “At any age, a healthy diet is important for optimizing bone strength,” says Dr. Javaid.
Dr. Javaid earned a medical degree from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, in St. Maarten, Caribbean. She completed the Family Medicine Residency Program with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She is currently a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
As a Central Valley native, Dr. Javaid says she’s always had a desire to return to her home town to practice medicine.
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