Jun 30, 2011
By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy
Hood River, Oregon is home to the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is a very windy place. Hot dry air in the desert east of the Gorge rises and cool moist air from the Pacific Ocean rushes through the Gorge to fill the gap. This constant wind always flows in the opposite direction from the current in the Columbia River, so there are 4-5 foot standing waves in the river. All these conditions make the Gorge an excellent place to go windsurfing. As you are sailing along, you have to be careful of the barges. These barges are pushed by tug boats. The barges are a couple of football fields long, and the tugs cant see for about a kilometer in front of the barge. The barges cant stop or turn quickly. So if you wipe out in front a barge, your chances of injury or death are high.
The good thing about the barges is they are slow, big and you can see them coming from a long way away. You just get off the river when they are coming. Osteoporosis is like those barges. It takes a long time to develop and if you know you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you can protect yourself.
Osteoporosis is when your bones get thinner and more brittle. If you look at a bone under a microscope, it looks like a honey comb. It isnt solid. When a person has osteoporosis, the microscopic structure changes, and the holes in the honey comb get bigger. The bone also gets weaker. Osteoporosis is called a silent disease. Sometimes the first sign of the disease is when a person breaks a bone unexpectedly. For example, someone with osteoporosis can break a rib by coughing. Other bones that can break in osteoporosis are the vertebrae in the spine, the upper thigh bone, the wrist, and the hip. Hip fractures are the most serious osteoporosis fracture. People with osteoporosis begin to break their hips at about age 60 and the average age of a hip fracture patient is 80. About 5% of people who break a hip die in hospital. Twenty percent of women and 30% of men die within a year of breaking their hip.
What factors put someone at risk of osteoporosis? Being female, being Caucasian or Asian, being over 65, having a small frame, having relatives with osteoporosis, being inactive, low calcium intake, smoking and high caffeine intake are a few of the risk factors.
What can you do to help reduce the risk of breaking a bone when you are at risk for osteoporosis? Depending on your age, you should be getting 1000 to 1200 mg of calcium per day either from your diet or supplements. You should be getting 800-2000 IU of Vitamin D per day. Calcium helps build and maintain bone. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium from the gut. Regular weight-bearing exercise will also help building bone. Regular walks with the dog 4-5 times a week for about 20 minutes each will help strengthen your bones. Also, quit smoking and reduce your caffeine intake.
If your doctor has determined your bones are already thinning and you are at risk for breaking them, they may put you on a prescription medication. There are a lot of choices but the most common class of medication are called the bisphosphonates. The have names like alendronate, fosamax, risedronate and actonel. They are a little complicated to take. You have to take them first thing in the morning at least 30 minutes before food and you cant go lie back down during that 30 minutes. On the plus side, there are bisphosphonates that you can just take once a week, which reduces their inconvenience.
While windsurfing, I couldnt do any of the jumps or tricks the experts at the Gorge were doing. I was just happy to sail from one side to the other without crashing. I scared my mother pretty good, though. I was on the far side of the river and was having trouble getting going out of the water. Then a barge came into view. I could see it coming so I just stayed on my side of the river. From my moms point of view, it sure looked like the barge was going to run me down. I took precautions, and I was safe from the barge. To protect yourself, talk to your doctor about precautions you can take to avoid the barge of osteoporosis.
As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist
For more information on Osteoporosis please see: www.osteoporosis.ca
The Columbia River Gorge: www.crgva.org/wind_sports.htm
Windsurfing the Gorge Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4IiOJhUQ7o
Pic of a Barge : www.ashcreekimages.com/GorgeTugboat1.html
The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.
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