This Issue

Aging bones
need youthful

More calcium, vitamin D key to healthy bones

A blend of balance and strength

Q & A

Are you at risk for fractures?

A closer look

Weak bones cause the spine to collapse
National Institute of Arthritis & Musculoskeletal & Skin Diseases

As bone weakness progresses, the bones in the spine collapse which can result in pain, reduced height and kyphosis, a severe curvature of the upper spine. Extreme cases of kyphosis can impede breathing.

For more information, click here.

A closer look

Watch your step!

Most falls occur in the home, but there are things you can do to avoid them.

  • Clear clutter off the floor.

  • Tack down carpets firmly and secure loose wires along the walls.

  • Keep items you often use within reach. Don’t use step stools.

  • Use non-slip mats in the tub or shower.

  • Use brighter light bulbs, especially along stairs.

  • Add handrails to staircase.
  • Wear shoes with non-slip soles.

  • Have your eyes checked.

  • Review your medications with your doctor, especially if they make you sleepy or dizzy.

Watch your step!

Got 10 minutes?
Take a simple test that could
save your life …

Hip fractures from osteoporosis can be fatal or result in long-term disability. A bone density test of the spine and hip can determine if you have or are at risk for osteoporosis. The DXA test, a non-invasive low dose x-ray, is the most widely used measure of bone density.

Above -1
Between -1 and -2.5
Below -2.5

Courtesy of Hologic

Should you get tested? You should if you are …

  • A woman 65 and older
  • A man 70 and older
  • Older than 50 and have broken a bone
  • A postmenopausal woman not taking estrogen
  • Taking medications that cause bone thinning
  • A younger person with one or more risk factors

Should you get tested? Click here to find out.

Got 10 minutes?

Three Steps to improve bone health … at any age

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Are you at risk for fractures?

You could be and not know it ― you cannot feel your bones
get weaker.

Ask yourself the following questions.

Are you 65 or older?

Did you break a bone after the age of 50?

Did your mother have osteoporosis?

Did you go through menopause before the age of 45?

Do you smoke?

Are you sedentary?

Do you typically have more than two alcoholic drinks a day?

Do you get less than the recommended amounts of vitamin D and calcium every day?

Are you taking certain drugs, such as prescription steroids and antiepileptic medications?

If you have answered “yes” to any of the questions,
talk to your doctor about a possible risk for osteoporosis.

To estimate your risk, click here.

3 strengthening exercises

Warm up first by walking or marching in place for five minutes. Cool down afterward with some stretches. For each exercise, try to do 10-15 repetitions (that’s one set), rest, then do another set of 10-15 repetitions. If that’s too hard, do whatever you can and work toward these goals over time.

Arm CurlArm Curl*

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Hold weights straight down at your sides, palms facing forward. Breathe in slowly.
3. Breathe out as you slowly bend your elbows and lift the weights toward your chest. Keep your elbows at your sides.
4. Hold for 1 second.
5. Breathe in as you slowly lower your arms.

Wall push upWall Push Up*

1. Face a wall, standing a little further than arms’ length away, feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Lean your full body forward and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height, shoulder-width apart.
3. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows to lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
4. Hold for 1 second.
5. Breathe out as you slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight.

Chair dipChair Dips*

1. Sit in a sturdy chair with armrests with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.
2. Lean slightly forward, keeping your back and shoulders straight.
3. Grasp the chair arms with your hands next to your sides. Breathe in slowly.
4. Breathe out as you use your arms to push your body slowly off the chair.
5. Hold for 1 second.
6. Breathe in as you slowly lower yourself back down.

Balance exercises

Catch your balance
Balance exercises and activities like yoga and tai chi help prevent falls that can cause serious injuries. Practice these two exercises daily to improve balance.

Single leg standSingle Leg Stand

1. If necessary, hold onto a sturdy chair or counter during this exercise.
2. Stand on one foot for 30 seconds or longer.
3. Switch feet and try again.
4. Repeat two to three times.

Heel to toe walkHeel-to-Toe Walk

1. If necessary, hold onto a counter for balance during this exercise.
2. Put one foot directly in front of the other as if on a tightrope while walking forward 10 steps. 3. Try it in reverse.
4. Repeat two to three times.

Adapted from Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from The National Institute on Aging.

A blend of balance and strength

Bones are living tissue that are constantly built up and torn down for repairs. During childhood and throughout the 20s, the body banks bone tissue. But right around age 30, the advantage shifts and the body begins to lose more bone than it builds. In time, bones become increasingly porous, often growing weaker and more fragile, which sets the stage for disabling fractures. This condition is called osteoporosis and affects eight million American women and two million men. Often, the very first clue is a broken bone.

“You can do a lot to prevent osteoporosis or slow its advance,” says Dr. Karen Boudreau, Medical Director of Medical Innovation and Leadership at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “One very important step is exercising regularly. Strength exercises actually help prevent bone loss, and may even build bone slightly over time. Talk to your doctor about other measures that will help, too.”

What kind of exercises should you do?

Balance exercises help you avoid falls that can cause fractures. Weight-bearing exercises stress bones by forcing the body to work against gravity. Walking, jogging, climbing stairs, and dancing are all good examples — plus, they offer aerobic benefits to keep your heart and lungs strong, too. However, these activities mostly strengthen bones in your lower body. Strengthening exercises for the upper body, such as the three described at right, will help keep those bones strong, too.

The National Institute on Aging ( has many excellent tips and a full set of upper and lower body strength exercises in its booklet on exercise. Click on “Publications” and look for “Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide.” Or you can order a free copy of the full publication by calling 1-800-222-2225.

Tips for safe strength training

  • Before starting, talk to your doctor if you have any health problems, joint surgeries, or injuries, or aren’t usually active. The strengthening exercises depicted are recommended by the National Institute on Aging for people of all ages and abilities.

  • These exercises use resistance to build strength in muscles and bones. The resistance can be supplied by body weight (see chair dips), hand weights or resistance bands, which are long, wide stretchy strips you wrap around your hands.

  • Resistance bands come in strengths from light to heavy. You can buy them at sports stores and many pharmacies. At first, choose light resistance or none at all. If you can’t do eight repetitions of an exercise (which should feel hard, but not very, very hard), use lighter resistance. When you can do two sets of 10-15 repetitions, move to heavier resistance.

  • Start with two sessions a week. While walking, jogging, climbing stairs and dancing are activities you can do every day, your muscles need a day to recover from strengthening exercises. If you do strengthening exercises Tuesday, wait until Thursday to repeat.

  • Don’t hold your breath during exercises. It can raise your blood pressure.

  • Count to three as you lift or push. Pause, then count to three as you return to the first position.