Sunday, July 21, 2024

May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month


May reminds me of my mother, and not just because of Mother's Day. May is National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. During the last 10 years of her life, my mother suffered significant disability from complications of osteoporosis.

People with low bone density have bones that are more likely to break. Nearly 54 million Americans have low bone mass, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), a health organization dedicated to preventing osteoporosis and broken bones through awareness, education, and research.

This silent but devastating disease affects women more than men. Women have a 50% chance of suffering a hip, spine, or wrist fracture during their lifetime, while nearly 30% of men will also experience a broken bone related to low bone mass. If you are female, the likelihood of breaking a bone from osteoporosis is equal to your risk of having breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer.

Osteoporosis-related fractures aren't just painful; they can be deadly. One in four women and one in three men will die within one year of experiencing a broken hip.

My mother broke her left wrist when she was 74, tripping on a curb while trying to catch a bus in downtown Seattle. Four years later, she broke her left hip when getting out of bed in the middle of the night.

She walked on it for 2 weeks before the pain drove her to see a doctor. By then, the bone edges had slipped out of place, leaving her with one leg an inch shorter than the other for the last 10 years of her life.

Although its complications appear in old age, osteoporosis can start in childhood. The thinner your bones are when young, the more likely you'll experience a fracture later.

We build nearly 90 percent of our peak bone mass before turning 20. In middle age, that process begins to reverse. Women lose 1% of their bone mass yearly, doubling to 2% per year during the first few years of menopause.

Last year I turned 65 and had my first bone density scan. It showed I had already lost bone density. If this bone loss continues at the same rate, I will eventually lose enough bone to put me at risk of hip, spine, or other fractures.

To counteract that, I have faithfully eaten 50 grams of dried plums daily. At a visit with my family doctor last week, I described my five dried plums a day regimen. He told me he had never heard of dried plums for bone health.

“The evidence for plums is remarkably compelling,” I told him. “Eating 50 grams of dried plums daily stops bone loss in men and postmenopausal women.”

Earlier research proved that 100 grams daily of dried plums stopped the process of losing bone mass in postmenopausal women. That sounds great until you realize 100 grams represents 10-12 dried plums Every day. Yikes!

Recent studies, like the Prune Study, have proven that 50 grams of dried plum are as effective in preserving bone mass as 100 grams daily.

For more information about bone health, check out the National Osteoporosis Foundation website at

Here are 4 Tips to Keep Your Bones Strong:

1. Eat 50 grams of dried plums (prunes) daily.

Eating dried plums daily supports bone mass in both men and postmenopausal women by changing the balance of bone remodeling to favor keeping more bone cells.

Since dried plums can have a laxative effect, I suggest starting with 2 plums daily. Increase the amount by 2 dried plums weekly until you get to 5 large or 6 small dried plums daily. I have found the size of dried plums can vary, so whenever I start a fresh bag, I use my kitchen scale to measure out 50 grams. My favorite dried plums are the ones carried by Costco.

2. Do weight-bearing activities.

Walking, cycling, dancing, and gardening are activities that keep your bones strong. Exercises like tai chi and strength training like bodyweight exercises and lifting weights strengthen your thigh muscles. It improves your balance, which helps prevent falls.

3. Don't smoke. If you do, quit.

Smoking cigarettes accelerates bone loss. My mother smoked for 68 years, starting at age 18. Stopping smoking could have helped her avoid the fractures which plagued her later years.

4. Track your bone density.

My mother had no idea how thin her bones were until she fell and broke her wrist. Earlier intervention could have prevented her hip fracture and subsequent disability. Talk to your doctor about your bone health.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 43-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Get clear answers to your medication questions at her website and blog, Ó2023 Louise Achey


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