Three New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Bones

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Osteoporosis is a disease. It’s also a fear; a marketing vehicle for drug companies; and widely misunderstood. This New Year’s Day message is addressed to women without known bone loss; women with slight bone loss (i.e., osteopenia); and women with significant bone loss: osteoporosis. In other words – all women.

    New Year’s Day is a time to reassess your life. Right now, you may still be feeling a bit woozy from an overdose of celebration last night – which makes it even more appropriate to just relax and think about things for awhile.

    Good health is something most of us take for granted – until we lose it. Whether you’re an athlete in training battling a nagging injury; a mom down with the flu, or someone dealing with a newly diagnosed chronic illness, you no doubt are suddenly aware of what it means to be healthy. To feel good; to move without pain.

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    Osteoporosis at its worst is a chronic, painful, debilitating condition. Thankfully, it’s also a disease that many of us can work to avoid. Or, if not avoid, at least lessen its severity. And even if you’re dealing with full-blown osteoporosis, there are things you can do to make the day-to-day struggle less acute.

    No matter how healthy your bones are (or aren’t), take a moment, right now, to make a 2012 osteoporosis resolution. One of these three is perfect for you – whoever you are, and whatever your bone health.

    For women not dealing with bone loss
    Congratulations! You’ve dodged the bullet – so far. However, since the two chief risk factors for developing osteoporosis are 1) being female, and 2) growing older, ALL of us women are at risk.

    Here’s my suggested 2012 resolution for women, young and old, who don’t have any known bone loss: take care of your bones now, so they can take care of you later. Exercise; don’t smoke; drink only a small amount of alcohol; and eat a healthy diet, including the right minerals and vitamins:

    •Calcium: the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that adult women under age 50 get 1000mg of calcium daily, through diet and/or supplements. For those over age 50, the recommendation is 1200mg of calcium daily. And for some women at higher risk – including breast cancer survivors taking an aromatase inhibitor – the number jumps to 1500mg daily. 

    Worried about getting enough calcium? Read our 10 Easy Ways to Add Calcium to Your Diet. Then follow up with How to Take Calcium for Maximum Benefit.

    •Vitamin D: without vitamin D, calcium can’t do its job. The government’s Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has set the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) average daily intake for most adults to 600 IU (800 IU for those over 70 years old). Are you getting enough? Read our Vitamin D FAQS.

    For women diagnosed with osteopenia
    Osteopenia is defined as minimal bone loss: T-scores ranging between -1.0 and -2.5, as measured via a DEXA scan. Since its parameters were identified and osteopenia was first named in 1994, many women have taken bisphosphonates – osteoporosis drugs – to deal with it.  

  • But osteopenia has come under fire of late from doctors and other members of the health care community. Is it REALLY a “disease?” Or simply a “condition” manufactured by the drug industry to sell more product?

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    Your resolution for 2012, if you’ve been diagnosed with osteopenia:
    •Decide if you really need to treat it with drugs; our post on potential over-treatment of osteopenia may help you. 

    •Examine your lifestyle, and see what changes you can make to improve bone health. These might include quitting smoking, and drinking less alcohol; eating a healthier diet; cutting back on diet soda; and, perhaps most important of all, increasing your level of the right kinds of exercise. You’ll find all the information you need in our post, Osteopenia: 10 Ways to Avoid Drugs.

    For women diagnosed with osteoporosis
    If you’ve been diagnosed with full-blown osteoporosis, then unfortunately your options for treatment are fewer. Not to say exercise and a healthy lifestyle won’t help, but basically, drugs are your first line of defense.

    Perhaps you’ve been taking Fosamax, Boniva, Actonel, or another bisphosphonate for years. And it seems to be helping; your T-scores are stable. Life is pretty good, right?

    Here’s your 2012 resolution: check in with your doctor about taking a drug holiday.

    That’s right; discuss whether you might be better off, in the long run, NOT taking your bisphosphonate for awhile. Recent studies have shown that taking a bisphosphonate longer than 5 years without a break can actually cause fractures – particularly of the femur, the large bone in the thigh. You may also run an increased risk of esophageal cancer, and ONJ (osteonecrosis of the jaw).

    In addition, studies have shown that the positive effects of bisphosphonates can continue for several years after the patient has stopped taking them.

    Will 2012 be a bisphosphonate-free year for you? If you’ve gone 5 years without a break – quite possibly. And wouldn’t that be a welcome relief!

    Happy New Year, one and all. May your 2012 be marked by health, happiness and, most important – strong bones.

Published On: January 01, 2012