What is Osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis (porous bones) is a bone disease that involves thinning of the bone tissue and loss of bone density over time. This weakens the bones and increases a person’s risk for fracture. Women are four times more likely to have osteoporosis as compared to men.

In 2005, osteoporosis was responsible for two million fractures and $19 billion in costs. Breaking a bone is a serious matter for seniors as it can lead to disability. Active seniors who wish to maintain their independence for as long as possible need to get screened for osteoporosis. If you are diagnosed with osteoporosis, your doctor can prescribe medication and supplements.

What are the risk factors for osteoporosis?

Some factors increase your chances of developing osteoporosis. Some you can change, others you can’t.

Things You Can Change

  • Increase the amount of calcium in your diet
  • Stop smoking
  • Treat eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Exercise and lead an active lifestyle
  • Stop drinking alcohol. More than two alcoholic drinks a day prevents your body from absorbing calcium Things You Can’t Change
  • Being a woman
  • Getting older
  • Race: You’re at greatest risk if you’re of Caucasian or Asian descent
  • Family history
  • Being very thin or having a small frame size
  • Certain medical conditions, procedures and drugs

What foods are rich in calcium and vitamin D?

Food rich in vitamin D include dairy food such as milk, yogurt and cheese; vegetables such as broccoli, kale and collard greens; proteins such as beans, tofu and salmon; fruits such as orange, figs and rhubarb. Fish and fish liver oils are the best sources of vitamin D.

See your doctor for a more complete, and perhaps more appetizing, list of calcium-rich foods. And, of course, sunlight is a major source of vitamin D, however, most of us in Hawai‘i get enough rays.

Dr. Ritabelle Fernandes, MD, MPH, FACP is Clinical Associate Professor at the Geriatric Medicine Department of the John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai‘i. She is board certified in Geriatric medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Internal Medicine and Home Care. She is a practicing physician at the Kokua Kalihi Valley and Kalihi-Palama Health Center