Osteoporosis: Preventing Fragility Fractures

Osteoporosis is a silent disease that is described as the progressive loss of bone mass and density causing weak and fragile bones. As the bone loses strength, the human body becomes fragile enough that a slight bump or fall from a standing position results in a fracture, referred to as a fragility fracture (Akesson).
It is estimated that worldwide 9 million osteoporotic fragility fractures occur each year. This breaks down to 25,000 fractures per day or 1 every 3 seconds. The risk that a woman will suffer a fracture in their lifetime is higher than the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer combined.
For men, the risk is higher than prostate cancer. Once a fragility fracture does occur, approximately 50% of these individuals will experience another in their lifetime. The consequences of these fractures are significant, potentially debilitating or even life threatening.
Unless preventative action is taken, the financial and human costs associated with osteoporotic fragility fractures will increase dramatically worldwide (Akesson).
Individuals with osteoporosis need to prevent fractures holistically. Although it is very important, simply taking your vitamins will not prevent a fracture from occurring. Be physically active every day.
Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to help strengthen bones. Eat a healthy diet and pay close attention to your calcium, vitamin D and protein intake. The average American does not eat enough calcium and vitamin D to maintain healthy bones.
High levels of calcium can be found in milk, leafy green vegetables, soybeans, yogurt, cheese, and fortified orange juice. Vitamin D is produced in the skin by exposure to the sun.
It can also be found in fortified milk. For those individuals who do not get enough of calcium or vitamin D from their diet, supplements may be helpful. Seek the guidance of your primary care provider for assistance (DiMarcantonio, 2014).
At risk individuals need to be monitored by their primary care provider for osteoporosis and fracture prevention. Women over the age of 65 and anyone who has suffered a bone fracture over 50 years of age should get a bone density test. Bone density tests use x-rays or sound waves to measure the strength of the bones. They are safe and painless, and can indicate the health of your bones quickly (DiMarcantonio, 2014).
Preventing falls from occurring can be one of the most effective ways to prevent a fragility fracture from happening.
Preventing a fall begins with daily exercise because it makes you stronger, improves your balance and coordination, and improves your overall health.
Make your home safe by removing things you can trip over like small rugs or electrical cords.
Install grab bars and non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower to prevent slipping.
Always use bright lights and night lights for easy vision. Wear shoes with good support and non-slip soles.
These are a few ways individuals and families can work together to keep their loved ones safe at home (DiMarcantonio, 2014)
Akesson, K. (n.d.). www.iofbonehealth.org. Retrieved March 11, 2014, from International Osteoporosis Foundation: http://share.iofbonehealth.org/WOD/2012/report/WOD12-Report.pdf
DiMarcantonio, T. (2014). Looming increase in fragility fractures demands improved preventative care. Orthopedicstoday, 10-13.

Author: Ashley Deal, Joint Care Coordinator, PeaceHealth St. John Joint Replacement Center

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