Don’t Sneeze! Your Bones May Be Brittle
Growing older doesn’t seem to slow women down. Without a cape, many choose to perform superheroic feats of working, cooking, cleaning, washing, and sometimes even watching the grandkids before calling it a day. But new research shows many women who are prone to bone breakage—something that could keep them off those busy feet for some time—aren’t even remotely aware of their increased risk.
THE DETAILS: Researchers highlighting their findings at the recent European Symposium on Calcified Tissues found that up to 75 percent of women 55 and older with factors that put them at high risk for fracture were unaware of the threat. Risk factors include: a history of a broken bone or bones, a parent who suffered a hip fracture, weighing less than 125 pounds, smoking, drinking more than 20 alcoholic drinks a week, steroid medicine use, or having rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers pulled data from the large Global Longitudinal Study of Osteoporosis in Women (GLOW) study, which consists of more than 60,000 women from 10 countries.
WHAT IT MEANS: The state of our bones isn’t always in the forefront of our minds, but it’s still important. Osteoporosis affects 44 million Americans, the majority of them age 50 or older; 80 percent of those affected are women. And the condition is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, something as small as a sneeze in people with the disease could trigger a broken bone.
Here’s how to build strong bones no matter how old you are:
• Calculate your risk. Part of preventing a break is being in the know. The World Health Organization created an online fracture risk assessment tool that can help you figure out if you’re more prone to having a fracture. Once you know your risk, you can put more effort into preventing a break.
• Use the power combo. We know that calcium builds strong bones, but vitamin D is also needed for proper absorption. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, women 50 and older should take in 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium and up to 1,000 International Units of vitamin D every day. Men and women ages 19 to 29 should aim for the same D target, but don’t need quite as much calcium—1,000 mg will do.
• Break a sweat. You don’t need to don a weight-lifting belt and start squatting to strengthen your bones, although that would be your best course of action. You can prevent osteoporosis and fractures using the weight of your own body, especially as a novice exerciser. Just being upright and moving against gravity will make you stronger, so activities like dancing, aerobics, hiking, walking, jogging, and climbing stairs can help you build stronger, more fracture-resistant bones. As you advance, you may wish to increase the bone building stimulus by adding resistance training to your program. Nothing increases bone density like squats and deadlifts!