Risa Kagan, M.D., FACOG, CCD, NCMP
If you haven’t paid much attention to your bone health over the years, it’s not too late to start. Time is of the essence, however; as many as 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. That’s when bones become weak and fragile due to age and other factors.
Don’t wait until you’ve broken a bone to address your bone health. Once you break a bone due to osteoporosis, you’re at increased risk of more fractures. Fractures not only cause pain and affect your quality of life — they can keep you from doing what matters most and make you dependent upon others.
Steps to better bone health
Start by getting a bone density test. If you’re a woman 65 and older or a man 70 and older, Medicare or your insurance should cover a DXA scan to screen you for osteoporosis. If you’re younger and have certain risk factors, your healthcare provider can arrange for you to have a DXA.
Your risk of broken bones depends on many factors, including lifestyle, medical conditions, and medicines you have taken. The American Bone Health Fracture Risk Calculator™ is a scientifically validated tool that can assess your risk of breaking a bone in the next 10 years. Go to AmericanBoneHealth.org/calculator to get started — it only takes a few minutes to answer some questions. Many healthcare providers use a similar tool called FRAX, which you may see on your DXA report.
You can make a plan for better bone health by taking your DXA report and your Fracture Risk Calculator results to your next doctor’s visit, and asking your provider about creating a bone health plan.
Finally, do what you can to avoid falling, as this is one of the leading causes of broken bones. Someone who tends to fall is more likely to break a bone than someone who doesn’t fall, even if the person who doesn’t fall has more fracture risk factors. Look for a fall prevention program. Tai chi and yoga can improve balance.
As you age, the choices you have made throughout life affect your bone health. You can’t change the past, but you can take steps to prevent fractures and maintain your health and independence.
For more information, go to AmericanBoneHealth.org.