Ten million Americans currently live with osteoporosis — 80% of them women. This disease can lead to injuries and accidents that hurt your quality of life, so it’s smart to start thinking about your bone health early. Setting yourself up to enjoy a full and healthy retirement is all about reducing your risk.
Here’s what you need to know about osteoporosis prevention.
Osteoporosis weakens your bones, making them more fragile and susceptible to breaks and injuries, particularly in the hips, wrists and spine.
There are several risk factors linked to osteoporosis, from age and family history to bone density and body type. The disease is particularly common among women, mainly because they tend to have smaller, thinner bones and experience hormonal changes that contribute to bone loss.
Osteoporosis isn’t like the cold or flu: It’s hard to gauge your bone health, so most people don’t realize they have a problem until they actually break a bone. Osteoporosis contributes to 50% of broken bones in women over age 50.
Working Toward Osteoporosis Prevention
One of the best ways to understand your osteoporosis risk is to undergo a bone mineral density test. If you’re considered high risk, your doctor may suggest this test during a routine visit. It involves using an X-ray to measure the amount of calcium in your bones and the bone density of different areas of the body, including your spine, hips, wrists, fingers and legs.
The test will give you more insight into your risk level and ultimately tell you whether you have osteoporosis. Fortunately, if you’re at risk, there are several things you can do to prevent this condition.
Eat healthy. Good nutrition is critical to bone health. Calcium strengthens the bones, so incorporate more dairy, calcium-fortified foods, fish and vegetables into your diet to reduce your risk.
- Take a supplement. Sometimes, proper nutrition alone can’t get your calcium levels to where they need to be. Talk to your doctor about whether you should consider taking multivitamins or a calcium supplement.
Get moving. This may seem counterintuitive, but exercise actually reduces your osteoporosis risk. Posture exercises that lengthen the spine can lower your risk of bone breaks, as can exercises that strengthen your hip and back muscles. Ask your doctor about what stretches and other activities can strengthen your bones, or check out these osteoporosis reduction exercises.
Practice fall prevention. Make your home as fall-proof as possible. Remove tripping hazards, wear low-heeled shoes with a grip, use handrails and make sure that both the inside and outside of your home are properly lit.
Even if you do everything possible to stay healthy, there’s still a chance that the unexpected will happen. An osteoporosis-related fall or injury can result in an extended stay hospital stay, which could force you to take time off work and may affect your mobility.
This is why it’s important to understand what your insurance covers — and what it doesn’t. Ask your broker whether adding supplemental insurance like an accident or hospital indemnity policy could help you bridge gaps in your coverage. While these plans often have exclusions for preexisting conditions, they may be able to help absorb the financial blow of an injury. Supplemental policies work by paying out lump sums for qualifying incidents, and you can use that cash to cover your medical bills or any other expense you might have.
Work with your doctor to implement a diet that boosts your bone health, and incorporate more strengthening exercises into your weekly routine. Making these small changes today may prevent a serious injury in the future.