BONE HEALTH DURING COVID
Bones play many roles in the body — providing structure, protecting organs, anchoring muscles and storing calcium. While it’s important to build strong and healthy bones during childhood and adolescence, you can take steps during adulthood to protect bone health, too. Be prepared to manage your bone health and osteoporosis and reduce your risk of breaking a bone during COVID-19.
Remember that older adults and people who have certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or lung, heart or kidney disease are at higher risk of the more serious complications of COVID-19 illness. We urge you to stay safe by taking the necessary precautions as recommended by government health agencies.
Take action to make sure you are staying fracture-free and are taking care of your bone health. This pandemic has put enormous pressure on our healthcare systems stretching our resources to the limit and the general recommendation is for people to avoid hospitals and doctor’s offices unless absolutely necessary.
Why is bone health important?
Your bones are continuously changing — new bone is made and old bone is broken down. When you’re young, your body makes new bone faster than it breaks down old bone, and your bone mass increases. Most people reach their peak bone mass around age 30. After that, bone remodeling continues, but you lose slightly more bone mass than you gain.
How likely you are to develop osteoporosis — a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle — depends on how much bone mass you attain by the time you reach age 30 and how rapidly you lose it after that. The higher your peak bone mass, the more bone you have “in the bank” and the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis as you age.
What affects bone health
A number of factors can affect bone health. For example:
- The amount of calcium in your diet. A diet low in calcium contributes to diminished bone density, early bone loss and an increased risk of fractures.
- Physical activity. People who are physically inactive have a higher risk of osteoporosis than do their more-active counterparts.
- Tobacco and alcohol use. Research suggests that tobacco use contributes to weak bones. Similarly, regularly having more than one alcoholic drink a day for women or two alcoholic drinks a day for men may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
- Sex. You’re at greater risk of osteoporosis if you’re a woman, because women have less bone tissue than do men.
- Size. You’re at risk if you are extremely thin (with a body mass index of 19 or less) or have a small body frame because you might have less bone mass to draw from as you age.
- Age. Your bones become thinner and weaker as you age.
- Race and family history. You’re at greatest risk of osteoporosis if you’re white or of Asian descent. In addition, having a parent or sibling who has osteoporosis puts you at greater risk — especially if you also have a family history of fractures.
- Hormone levels. Too much thyroid hormone can cause bone loss. In women, bone loss increases dramatically at menopause due to dropping estrogen levels. Prolonged absence of menstruation (amenorrhea) before menopause also increases the risk of osteoporosis. In men, low testosterone levels can cause a loss of bone mass.
- Eating disorders and other conditions. Severely restricting food intake and being underweight weakens bone in both men and women. In addition, weight-loss surgery and conditions such as celiac disease can affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium.
- Certain medications. Long-term use of corticosteroid medications is damaging to bone. Other drugs that might increase the risk of osteoporosis include aromatase inhibitors to treat breast cancer, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, some anti-seizure medications, such as and proton pump inhibitors.
PROTECTING YOUR BONES
What you can do to protect your bone health during covid
- Fall Prevention: ensure that your home environment is free of clutter and any obstacles. Take care when walking outdoors.
- Do not stop any osteoporosis treatment you have been prescribed. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
- Physical/Social Distancing does not mean self-isolating! Make sure to call and speak to friends or family at least once a day. Video chats are also a great way to stay connected.
- Ask for help! There are many ways to get the support you need for getting prescriptions filled and groceries delivered. Most grocers have a delivery service or an online order system where you can go pick up your order. If you do not have the ability to order online, many volunteer groups have popped up.
- Nutrition: Many pantry staple foods like beans and canned fish contain calcium and protein.
- Get the amount of vitamin D you need daily.
- Stay active! Safely exercise daily by adapting exercises you can do at home.
Together, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by making a conscious effort to keep a physical distance between each other. Social distancing is proven to be one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of illness during an outbreak.
This means making changes in your everyday routines to minimize close contact with others, including:
- avoiding crowded places and non-essential gatherings
- avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes
- limiting contact with people at higher risk like older adults and those in poor health
- keeping a distance of at least 2 arms-length (approximately 2 metres) from others
There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for those:
- aged 65 and over
- with compromised immune systems
- with underlying medical conditions