While some degree of bone loss is a normal part of the aging process, abnormal bone loss resulting in low bone density affects 18 million people in the United States and places men and women at an increased risk for developing osteoporosis.
For a little background: We all build bone up to around age 30 and then slowly lose bone mass. The loss accelerates for women around the time of menopause. Those with less bone to start with — because of family history, diet, inactivity and other factors — are most likely to have a fracture as their bone banks dwindle.
For some, Physical Therapy can provide an answer. With osteoporosis already a threat to 44 million people over age 55, preventing the abnormal loss of bone density is a critical public health issue. If you already have osteoporosis or you’re at high risk for developing it, a Physical Therapy treatment program can make the difference in keeping you active and mobile. Exercise is an important component of osteoporosis prevention, management, and treatment.
For someone who already has been diagnosed with osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercise remains important. But more is needed: You need exercises that improve your strength, balance, coordination and agility, says Marilyn Moffat, a Physical Therapist at New York University and past president of the American Physical Therapy Association. People in this situation also need exercises to strengthen your back and maintain posture. One major goal: preventing falls, which are a major cause of fracture. As for diet, keep up the calcium. You need 1,200 mg to 1,500 mg a day — the amount in four to five cups of milk, yogurt or fortified orange juice. Use a supplement if you are unlikely to consume that much.
Moffat goes on to say: if you haven’t yet done so, you may want to speak to your doctor about having your blood checked for vitamin D levels. You might need more than the 400 IU recommended for most women your age. (Some experts say all adults should get more than that.) Though you can get some vitamin D from sun exposure and from foods such as salmon and fortified milk, many people need a supplement.
Keeping your bones strong is important at any age. As we age, it is even more important to keep this in mind along with monitoring our muscle strength, coordination and balance. Your Physical Therapist can perform a screening for proper muscle strength, balance and coordination to see if you are at a higher risk for falls.