Though bones may feel rock solid, they are actually filled with tiny holes in a kind of honeycomb pattern. Bone tissue gets broken down and rebuilt all the time.
“With aging, humans start to lose more bone mass than we build, and those tiny holes within the bones begin to expand, thinning the solid outer layer. In other words, our bones become less dense. Hard bones become spongy, while spongy bones end up becoming spongier. When this loss of bone density becomes intense, that is what is called osteoporosis,” says Dr. Vonda Wright, American double board certified orthopedic surgeon. “More than 10 million people are estimated to have osteoporosis throughout the nation, and this truly is an astonishing number.”
Dr. Wright has cared for athletes and active people of all ages since 1989, specializing in shoulder, hip and knee arthroscopy. She is currently serving as the inaugural Chief of Sports Medicine at the Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute and is President of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Heart Association. Dr. Wright also actively promotes National Women’s Health Week & Annual Women’s Health Conversations. Below, we join her in conversation to learn more about osteoporosis in aging women and what can be done to prevent it.
“Bones can break as a result of accidents. If your bones are dense enough, they can withstand most falls,” says Dr. Wright. “However, bones deteriorated by osteoporosis are more vulnerable to breaks. The hip is a common candidate for osteoporosis, and is most vulnerable to fractures. A broken hip can lead to a downward spiral of disability. Osteoporosis is also common in the wrist, knee and the spine,” says Dr. Wright.
Osteoporosis in Aging Women
Dr. Vonda Wright reveals that the hormone estrogen enables women to make and rebuild bones. “However, as with menopause, the woman’s estrogen levels drop, eventually speeding up the bone loss. This explains why osteoporosis is most common among older females,” she says.
Dr. Wright recommends that women get screened for osteoporosis regularly after the age of 65. Additionally, women under this age with a high risk for fractures should also be screened regularly.
Reducing the Risk of Osteoporosis
Thankfully, osteoporosis is preventable. “There is a lot that can be done to diminish your risk of osteoporosis. Taking calcium, vitamin D, and exercising is a where to begin,” Dr. Wright says. She explains that calcium is the vital mineral that maintains bone strength. This mineral can be easily obtained from the food you eat— including milk and milk products and dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach—or from dietary supplements. She further emphasized that women over age 50 should take at least 1200 mg of calcium each day.
Vitamin D is also essential as it allows the body to absorb calcium. “With aging, your body necessitates more vitamin D that is produced by your skin in the sunlight. Alternatively, you can intake vitamin D from dietary supplements or from specific foods, like milk, eggs, fatty fish, and fortified cereals,” says Dr. Wright.
Exercise strengthens bones, too, particularly weight-bearing exercise like walking, jogging, tennis and dancing. The pull in the muscles acts as a reminder for your bone cells to keep the tissue dense.
Smoking, on the other hand, deteriorates bones. The same goes for heavy drinking. Additionally, some drugs may also increase the risk of osteoporosis.
“And even if you have osteoporosis, it is never too late to get serious about your bone health. As your bones are rebuilding all the time, you can always promote more bone growth by providing them with exercise, calcium, and vitamin D,” says Dr. Wright. “In fact, this is precisely why exercise is essential, for it shapes balance and confidence, thus preventing fractures. Some exercises even provide loads necessary to build bone mass, along with improving balance and coordination—empowering you to catch yourself before you topple.”
How to Help Your Child if You Think They Might Have Autism
Do you suspect your child might have autism, but you’re not sure? While only a professional diagnosis can tell you for sure, there are many ways you can support your child while you get a diagnosis and create a plan.
Here are some of the best ways to support a child you think might have autism.
- Try a variety of therapies
While you’re in the process of getting a formal diagnosis, start trying different therapies with your child to see if anything resonates with your child. Every child with autism is different, so what works for one person may not work for another. There are several types of therapy you can try that are low-cost or free, including play therapy, speech therapy, floortime, ABA therapy, and more.
Although your child will need a formal Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis to get ABA therapy, it’s worth noting that once you have a diagnosis, you can get in-home therapy, which will make things easier on you and your child. Organizations like Golden Care Therapy in New Jersey will send an ABA therapist to your home to work with your child in their own environment. Getting in-home therapy will reduce the stress your child may feel from being in a new and unfamiliar place.
The more therapies you try, the better chance you have of getting a head start in supporting your child, whether or not they get diagnosed with autism.
- Get your child some sensory toys
Kids with autism need to stim, which is just a fancy way of saying they need something to stimulate their senses in a way that allows them to mitigate and disburse the sensory overload they’re feeling. Without toys, kids will find ways to stim using just their bodies and their surroundings, but toys can be extremely helpful and less damaging depending on your child.
Every child is different, so it might take a bit to find toys they like. However, you can find some excellent suggestions from The Aspie World on YouTube. Some toys spin, squish, make noise, or are a series of magnets that can be reshaped. If your child is already fixated on certain types of toys, try to find something that matches their existing interest. For example, if they like soft textures, find some plush toys with a velvety-smooth texture. Try all types of toys to see if they help your child.
- Seek a professional diagnosis
Getting a professional diagnosis is the best way you can support your child when you think they might have autism. Once you have a diagnosis, that opens the door to getting services that will help them immensely. Not just while they’re young, but it will help them in their adult life, too. For example, if your child moves out on their own, and they struggle with self-care and household chores, they’ll need a professional diagnosis to get in-home services from the state.
A professional diagnosis will tell you if your child is on the autism spectrum, or if they have a different disorder. Depending on the therapist you choose, they’ll likely be able to diagnose your child with any relevant comorbidities, which are common with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
- Learn about autism
Next to getting your child professionally diagnosed, learning about autism will help you support your child in many ways. There are many misconceptions about autism that can make it hard to spot the signs of autism. One of the best people to learn from is Tony Attwood. He’s considered the leading expert on Autism Spectrum Disorder and is extremely knowledgeable.
One of the most important things you can learn from Attwood is how to spot Autism in girls. For various reasons, it’s harder to spot autism in girls and some girls don’t get diagnosed until they’re in their 40s. Attwood gave an excellent talk about Asperger’s in girls back in 2015, and you’ll learn a lot from this speech.
Although Attwood’s speech focuses on Asperger’s, it is part of the autism spectrum. As a diagnosis, Asperger’s has been officially merged into the diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Support your child in every way you can
When you suspect your child might have autism, it’s important to support them in every way possible. While you’re seeking a professional diagnosis, start trying simple solutions, like play therapy and toys for stimming. See how they respond. Once you get a diagnosis, your child’s therapist will suggest next steps to help your child long-term.
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