May is Osteoporosis Awareness Month.
Osteoporosis is often called the "silent thief" because people don’t typically have symptoms or pain until a bone breaks.
That’s why Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Chad Deal said screening is critical to identify osteoporosis early, when it’s treatable.
“It’s really important for people to, at the appropriate time, have a bone density test to see if they have osteoporosis and do the appropriate treatment if a patient’s risk is high enough,” he said.
Deal said there are osteoporosis medications available to reduce fracture risk in general, although they have never been scientifically proven to reduce fractures caused by falls, which is why preventing falls is so important.
Falls may lead to broken bones, which can make it hard for an older person to get around or remain independent.
Older people need to maintain good balance and muscle strength in order to prevent an accidental fall because unsteadiness often leads to falls and fractures.
Deal said exercises to strengthen the core and lower body muscles can help steady an older person who may be a little wobbly.
He adds there are a number of options available to help people improve their balance.
“Often it’s physical therapy but there are also free-standing fall physical therapy directed centers, and I’ve found that tai chi is also very good in terms of fall prevention,” he said.
Deal also recommends removing trip hazards from the home, such as loose rugs and electrical cords.
He reminds that osteoporosis screening is recommended for all women at age 65, and earlier for those considered high risk.