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Osteoporosis and Balance

If you have osteoporosis, you have an increased risk of fracturing a bone if you fall.  People with osteoporosis have brittle bones that are less dense than they should be.

These bones fracture more easily than normal, healthy bones.  While a broken wrist will just be annoying for a few months while it heals, a broken bone in your back, hip, or leg can be very serious. 

Some have suggested that osteoporosis can even cause a fall.  The theory is that a person could have such poor bone health that the pelvis could break just from the impact of walking, causing a loss of balance and subsequent fall.

As you get older, your risk for osteoporosis increases.  Here are things you can do to curtail or prevent it:

• Exercise at least three times per week.

Exercises where you are on your feet, like walking, are the best because they put more pressure on the bones, which encourages them to grow stronger.  Weight-training has also been shown to improve bone density. 

• Get adequate calcium.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people over the age of fifty get 1200mg of calcium per day.  Dairy products, nuts, broccoli, beans, orange juice, cereals, and apricots are all good sources of calcium.  Talk with your doctor about your calcium intake and consider using supplements (calcium pills) if you don’t think you are getting enough.

• Get adequate vitamin D.

This important vitamin helps your body absorb calcium.  It is made by your skin when you spend time in the sun.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people over the age of fifty get 400 IUs of vitamin D daily.

People over seventy should get 600 IUs per day.  Vitamin D is found in fish like salmon and tuna and in fortified milk or cereal.  Most calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.

• Avoid smoking and alcohol.

Smoking and alcohol may reduce bone density and thus should be minimized.

Lastly, if you have osteoporosis, it is even more important to keep your balance in good shape to help reduce your risk of falling and breaking a bone. You should be doing safe activities that use your sense of balance most days of the week.

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