Osteoporosis is an interesting condition. It makes its victims go from feeling like an unstoppable human being to a fragile porcelain doll—avoiding slips and trips anywhere they go to prevent breaking a bone.
You’re not alone if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 10 million people have osteoporosis and 18 million more are at risk of developing the disease in the United States alone. The most common form is Primary Osteoporosis, which is prevalent in women who are 70 years of age or older.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to live a healthier life with osteoporosis and reduce your risk of fractures along the way. Here we’ll discuss what those are:
1. Talk with Your Doctor. When your doctor gives you the diagnosis for osteoporosis, ask questions and talk to him/her about what you should expect. While osteoporosis cannot be cured, your doctor may be able to prescribe you with treatment that can help reduce your risk of fractures. However, be sure to review the recommended treatment and others you are taking with your doctor. Some combinations can make you severely drowsy or dizzy, which is risky for your balance. Ask your doctor if you need to take them all, if you could take smaller doses, etc.
2. Install Safety Devices in Your Home. Here are a few common safety devices that will help protect you from falls in your home:
- Handrails for the stairs. They should be on either side of the stairway.
- Rubber mats in the bathroom. Place rubber mats in the bathroom and in the tub.
- Skid-proof rugs. Use skid-proof backing on rugs so they don’t slide.
- Step stool for the kitchen. Choose a sturdy step stool with handrails that you can use when trying to reach higher shelves.
3. Use Proper Lighting. To make your home safer for you, think about the lighting. Your eyesight changes as you age, which can make it harder to get around obstacles, especially with dim lighting. Brightening up the house with brighter light bulbs, or painting rooms brighter colors, can do wonders for your vision—making it easier for you to see and less likely for you to trip over items strewn about. For even more light, keep curtains and blinds open for the daylight to stream in.
4. Wear Proper Shoes. Look for slip-resistant shoes that fit properly. You should even wear them indoors. Walking around barefoot or in socks can increase your risk of falling. And if you love to wear heels, ladies, you’ll want to trade those in for shoes with a low heel or flats—always looking for ones with a slip-resistant sole.
5. Get Rid of the Clutter. Keep your home clutter-free. Make sure it is easy to walk through. Rearrange furniture if need be, and make sure any low furniture is not in the way. Pick up any clothing, newspapers, magazines, boxes or other miscellaneous objects off the floor. Additionally, place electric cords and phone lines out of the way. Then, for your yard, rake leaves off the major pathways so you won’t slide on them and risk falling.
6. Use Another Pair of Glasses for Walking and Outdoor Activities. If you have bifocals or trifocals, they may be making it harder for you to see straight ahead of you. If you have noticed this, consider changing your glasses to single-lens glasses to help you see straight as you’re walking, taking the stairs or participating in outdoor activities. Being able to see straight ahead of you can help you avoid a fall. If you’re not very active, switching between glasses might be too confusing. In that case, talk to your eye doctor about some other options and remember to see your eye doctor every year to update your prescription.
7. Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink. Did you know excessive alcohol can actually damage your bone health? It limits the amount of calcium that can get into your bones, which makes them more brittle and susceptible to fractures. Therefore, when you have a drink, don’t overdo it. Doing so will not only affect your bone health but also your balance, making you more vulnerable to falling.
8. Be Mindful of Your Pets. Annually, an estimated 21,000 older adults end up in the emergency room as a result of tripping over their pets. To help make sure your pets are out of your way, try some of these quick tricks:
- Don’t let them sleep next to your bed or chair where they could potentially cause you to fall
- Keep their food dishes and toys out of walkways
- Clean up any spills right away
- Put a bell on their collar so you know when they’re coming
9. Take Your Time. If you have a hard time taking it slow, this one might be difficult for you. But if you want to avoid a slip or a fall, you’re going to want to master this. More accidents happen when people are in a hurry. Take your time getting out of bed in the morning or standing up from your chair. And if the phone rings or someone is at the door, take it easy getting there. You don’t want to fall on your way. Apply these same rules when you’re out and about. Take your time.
10. Look Where You’re Walking. With osteoporosis, you’re always going to want to be mindful of where you step. If a walkway looks slippery, take a different path or walk on the grass. Think about carrying a small bag of kitty litter or salt with you in case you need to give yourself traction on icy sidewalks. Also, keep a lookout for curbs and steps. You don’t want to find yourself overlooking them and falling as a result.
Inside, marble and tile floors can also be slippery. Stay on the carpet whenever you can to prevent any slips or falls.
11. Explain to Kids that You Are Fragile. Having osteoporosis as a parent or grandparent has its challenges. Your children don’t always understand that they need to be careful around you. Kids love to run and play, so it’s very easy for there to be an accident. Make sure you explain that to them so they understand.
Now, explaining “osteoporosis” may be a bit of a challenge, but there are ways to help your kids understand in simpler terms.
12. Eat Bone-Strengthening Foods. What you eat directly effects your health, so make sure what you’re eating is having a positive effect on your health, not a negative one. Eat bone-strengthening foods like the ones listed below:
- Yogurt and Cheese
- Green vegetables like cabbage and kale.
- Soy foods
- Nuts and seeds
- Avoid salt
13. Exercise to Prevent Falls. Exercise is another great activity to help fight against osteoporosis. It can help improve your balance, reduce bone loss and build stronger muscles that can support you. If you are good about getting your exercises in, you’ll be less likely to have a fall or break a bone. Here are some exercises that are most beneficial for individuals with osteoporosis:
- Weight-bearing exercise—exercise that requires your feet and legs to support you.
- Weights—lifting weights is a great way to build bone and muscle mass. Try to work each muscle group at least twice a week, with one day of rest in between. If you’re not used to lifting weights, talk to your doctor first. You don’t want to overdo it or use the weights incorrectly.
- Dance—this is a great workout, and it’s fun, too! It keeps you on your feet, gets your pulse up and helps strengthen your heart, bones and muscles. It’s also a great workout for your mind because it requires you to think about the various steps and sequences you need to use for each dance.
- Gardening—this is a great way to keep active and moving. Be careful to keep your spine straight and don’t twist at the waist.
- Swimming—swimming is a great cardio workout and it helps build muscle in your arms and legs. The only downside is that because the water is holding you up, it’s not considered a weight-bearing exercise that can help strengthen your bones. However, if your osteoporosis is so severe that doing weight-bearing exercise is too risky, swimming is a good alternative.
- Yoga—practicing yoga can improve your balance and flexibility. It is also a good bone-strengthening exercise because it’s considered a weight-bearing exercise. Check with your doctor to make sure this is safe for you. Some positions may be too risky.
14. Know How to Fall. This may seem a bit funny, but knowing how to fall can actually help you prevent fractures or other injuries. When you fall, roll. If you feel yourself trip, take a couple of quick steps to keep your balance. If you don’t think that will work, drop down and attempt to roll out of the fall, avoiding your hip.
There are a lot of people who live with osteoporosis. The trick is living with it well. By following these steps, you’ll be able to prevent more falls—and broken bones—and live a healthier life.
What has been your biggest challenge living with osteoporosis?