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Osteoporosis Prevention

Are there things that can be done to reduce hip and knee fractures by preventing osteoporosis?

Besides her iconic movie roles, legendary actress Bette Davis was known for being rather outspoken. One of her more memorable quotes, which was about the process of growing older, was “Old Age Isn’t for Sissies!” If that made you laugh, it’s probably because you are still too young to realize that she was stating a fact, not making a joke.

Thanks to breakthroughs in modern medicine, life expectancy keeps increasing. It would seem like there would be little argument to that being a good thing, but there’s a certain amount of irony in the fact that, while hardly anyone wants to die, no one, other than the very young, wants to age. This is usually because aging brings with it an increasingly long list of physical changes that can be challenging, to say the least. 

One of those challenges that is especially unpleasant to look forward to is osteoporosis. With its signature hump-back, osteoporosis may be one of the most blatant reminders of those physical changes that come with aging. 

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally means “porous bone”. Of course, bone does not start out being porous. During childhood and up until our early 20s, our bone cells are being created faster than older bone is being removed. This is what enables our skeleton to continue to grow as the bones become, not only longer and larger, but also denser and heavier. We stop growing at a certain point, usually around the age of 20, and bone mass reaches its peak. From then on, the process is reversed and old bone is removed faster than it can be replaced. If this process reaches a critical level, the result is a diagnosis of osteoporosis. 

There are risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Being over 65
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis
  • Small-boned body types are more susceptible than those with larger frames
  • Inadequate amount of exercise
  • Smoking and alcohol use

Symptoms of Osteoporosis

There are no early signs of osteoporosis. It is not until a significant amount of bone mass has been lost that symptoms start to appear, and, unfortunately, once that happens, it cannot be reversed. At the point that symptoms appear, they will likely include some combination of:

  • Back pain, typically the result of vertebrae that have collapsed or fractured
  • Gradual loss of height
  • Telltale stooped posture and rounded or humped back
  • Vulnerability for bones to break more often and with less cause

Preventing Osteoporosis

Is it possible to prevent osteoporosis? While we may not be able to actually prevent the bone loss leading to osteoporosis, there are things that we can do to protect and strengthen our bones and at least slow the progression. The first step should be to book an appointment with your healthcare professional to make sure that you are following the best practices. Recommendations will likely include:

  • Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise
  • Include a wide variety of vegetables and fruit in your diet
  • Make sure you are getting seven to eight hours of sound sleep on a regular basis
  • Consider including probiotics in your diet

Anything that you can do to protect the health of your bones and slow the progression of osteoporosis can only add to your quality of life. And, isn’t that the real goal?

Patrick A. Meere, M.D., C.M., a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with 25 years of clinical experience in the New York City area is a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, NYU School of Medicine, the Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Arthroplasty Research in Robotics and Sensors (LAARS) and the Co-Director of the Robotics Center in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at NYU Langone Health. He was the president of the 2019 CAOS (International Society for Computer Assisted Surgery) conference held in New York City from 6/19 – 6/22/2019. If you have questions about knee or hip replacement surgery, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.

Posted in: Osteoporosis

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