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November is National Osteoporosis Month

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Bone health is an important part of overall health

A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Director, Women's Health, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO)

Keeping our bones healthy is an often-overlooked but very important part of our overall health and wellness. Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to positively impact our bone health and prevent low bone mass and the deterioration of bone tissue – also known as osteoporosis. And many of the things that help prevent bone loss are good for our overall wellness.

A few facts about osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can affect people at almost any age, but in Canada it is most common among those who are age 50+. Two million Canadians are affected by osteoporosis, and at least one in three women and one in five men will break a bone due to osteoporosis in their lifetime, according to Osteoporosis Canada. In fact, fractures from osteoporosis are more common than heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer combined. As osteoporosis can negatively impact quality of life, mobility, independence, and self-esteem, it is important to do what we can to boost our bone health.

It is really important to focus on building bone mass as a child. Peak bone mass is achieved before age 25 in both men and women, so eating healthy and being active while young are vital to avoiding fractures later in life.

Osteoporosis and the FNHA's Four Wellness Streams

To achieve good health, which includes healthy bones, the First Nations Health Authority has identified 4 key Wellness Streams: Being Active, Nurturing Spirit, Respecting Tobacco, and Eating Healthy.

Being Active and Nurturing Spirit

Daily activity, including strength training and aerobic activity (swimming, running, cycling, walking), positively impacts bone health. Personally, I love walking – I find that strolling along a safe, beautiful path is not just good for my bones, but for my heart, mind and personal wellness – and highly recommend it if it is possible for you and something you enjoy.

Respecting Tobacco

Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol both negatively impact bone health, as well as overall health. Take a look at our tobacco cessation resources or check out our substance use prevention and treatment resources.

Eating Healthy

A nutritious diet that includes calcium positively impacts bone health. A tip: to benefit from the calcium in canned salmon, you must consume the bones. To help increase calcium absorption and improve muscle function, which in turn improves balance and decreases the chance of falls (and fractures), take Vitamin D. Those who live in a cloudy environment especially need Vitamin D.  For detailed information about calcium and Vitamin D sources and requirements, click here.

When to talk to your health care provider

There are a number of factors that can negatively impact bone health, including certain medications and medical conditions, past medical history (previous osteoporotic fracture), low body, family history, and reproductive health (early menopause). If any of these apply to you, it is a good idea to talk with your health care provider. In Canada, high-risk persons and anyone age 65+, regardless of risk factors, should have a bone density test, which is a screening test for osteoporosis. You can find more information here.

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