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What You Should Know about Osteoporosis

We don’t think about our bones as living tissue, but they are. They are constantly breaking down and rebuilding.

During the first three decades of our life, our bones rebuild faster than they break down. Osteoporosis happens when new bone growth no can’t keep up with old bone loss.

Senior Woman Touching Her Back

Whom It Affects

Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because most people don’t know they have it until they break a hip, wrist, or vertebrae.

It is more common in women, affecting almost one in five over the age of 50. Men can get it too however it only affects one in 20 men over 50.

Non-Hispanic white and Asian women who are well past menopause are at the highest risk for developing osteoporosis.

Other risk factors include having a parent or sibling with osteoporosis, especially if one of your parents ever fractured a hip. Men and women with smaller body frames are also at higher risk because they have less bone mass.

Senior Man Touching His Knee

Other Factors

Osteoporosis is more likely to occur in people with too much or too little of certain hormones. A drop in estrogen for women after menopause, or for women taking some breast cancer treatments will accelerate bone loss.

Treatment for prostate cancer will reduce testosterone levels in men and accelerate bone loss. An overactive thyroid can do the same.

A lifelong lack of calcium will increase the chances of developing osteoporosis, as will eating disorders that severely restrict food intake.

Surgery to reduce stomach size or remove part of the intestine has the potential to limit the area that can absorb nutrients, including calcium.

Lifestyle habits can also play a role. Being sedentary, drinking too much, or tobacco use have all been shown to contribute to reduced bone density.

Radriography on Tablet Device

Screening for Osteoporosis

It is recommended for doctors to screen for osteoporosis in women over the age of 65, and in women with any factors that could increase the chances of developing osteoporosis.

Patients should report:

  • Previous fractures
  • Diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol consumption
  • Medical conditions or medications that might contribute to bone loss
  • Family history
  • Menstrual history for women

A doctor will perform a physical exam that looks at:

  • Changes in posture
  • How you walk
  • Loss of height and weight
  • Muscle strength

The doctor will also measure bone mineral density (BMD) using a special x-ray technique that scans the hips, wrists, and spine. These are the areas that are most likely to fracture.

The results will be measured against other people of your same age, race, and sex. If your density looks lower, the doctor will likely recommend medications to protect against broken bones and lifestyle changes to improve health and balance.

Senior Woman Doing Yoga


  • Nutrition — On a daily basis, you should eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and leafy vegetables. Foods with calcium, vitamin D, and protein will help minimize bone loss. This includes bok choi, broccoli, collard and turnip greens, low-fat dairy, salmon, tofu, orange juice, soymilk, and breads.
  • Lifestyle — Stop smoking and don’t start. Avoid secondhand smoke. Drink in moderation if you drink at all. Have regular checkups and talk to your doctor about factors that may contribute to falls or bone loss.
  • Exercise —Rather than increasing bone mass when you’re older, exercise will build your strength to improve coordination and balance to reduce your risk of falling. If you have osteoporosis any exercise program will be tailored to your circumstances.
  • Medication — There are more than half a dozen medications for either the treatment of osteoporosis or the rebuilding of bone density. You can find a list here.

With You at Every Stage

The risk of developing chronic diseases increases once you reach 50 and continues to rise every year after that. AltaMed’s experienced physicians and medical staff know which tests you need and how to administer them. That includes screenings for osteoporosis. Make sure to get regular checkups and get the screenings you need when you need them. Call (888) 499-9303 for information on the screenings you need.

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How to Prevent Dangerous Falls for Seniors

Aging comes with numerous challenges, most of which can be overcome with a good diet, plenty of exercise, and regular visits with your AltaMed physician.

However, one challenge that can be devastating is falling. It is the leading cause of injury among older adults with more than one in three people over the age of 65 falling each year. The risk of falling and the related injuries go up as we continue to age.

Sometimes the fear of falling is so great that is keeps seniors from leaving the house, participating in normal activities, or even getting together with friends and family. But there are some simple things you can do to help reduce your risk of falling and the related injuries.

Doctor with a Patient

Preventing falls and injuries

Taking care of your overall health is one way to help reduce the risk of falling. It’s also a good way to reduce the risk of injury, should you fall. Other things you can do include:

  • Stay physically active
  • Get eyes and hearing tested
  • Keep your bones strong
  • Get enough sleep
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Report the side effects of any medicine
  • Stand up slowly
  • Use a cane or walker to help feel steady
  • Wear non-skid, rubber-soled, low-heeled shoes
  • Be careful on wet or icy surfaces
  • Tell your doctor if you’ve fallen, even if you didn’t hurt yourself
  • Make sure your home is lit well
  • Add grab bars near the toilet or shower
  • Tape down rugs or cords
Old Man with a Dog

Falls by the numbers

Millions of older Americans fall every year. Falling once doubles the chances of falling again.
Falls are serious and more often they result in death. The death rate from falls increased 30% from 2007 to 2016. At that pace, there will be seven fall deaths an hour by 2030.

  • One out of five falls result in a serious injury like broken bones or a head injury.
  • Three million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries.
  • More than 800,000 people are hospitalized because of a fall injury.
  • Hip fractures put at least 300,000 older people in the hospital each year.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually sideways.
  • Traumatic brain injuries in seniors are most often caused by falls.
Nurse Helping to Old Man

The risk factors

We fall for a variety of reasons. There is always something at the core of why people fall. Knowing those reasons can help us reduce the risk factors that lead to falls. Those factors include:

  • Lower body weakness
  • Not enough vitamin D
  • Walking difficulties
  • Medications that cause dizziness
  • Poor vision
  • Foot pain
  • Wrong shoes
  • Broken or uneven steps
  • Clutter on the floor

Helping you as you age

Seniors need special care to ensure their health, wellbeing, and independence. AltaMed Senior Services offers a wide range of medical, dental and support services for seniors in our community. Our physicians and staff will work with you and your family to create a care plan that meets your needs. AltaMed is committed to offering care with dignity and respect and providing access to services that will help you grow healthy, no matter your age.

To get started with AltaMed senior services and care, call (888) 499-9303.

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Let’s Get Back on Track for Women’s Health Care

Even though COVID-19 has been our nation’s most pressing health concern for the past three months, breast cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease, and diabetes still threaten the health of our communities. Hopefully, you’ve been taking care of yourself, eating right, finding ways to exercise, and taking care of your mental health, but if you’re like most people, you’ve probably let your routine visits to the doctor slide. Health experts worry that, over time, we’ll see more cases of cancer at later stages, increased diabetes complications, and other health conditions that could have been caught early or prevented by routine, preventative care.

AltaMed is doing everything it takes to protect your health – that includes telehealth visits and keeping our facilities clean and sterilized according to the highest standards put forth by the Centers for Disease Control. While some common conditions and issues can be taken care of with a telephone or video chat with your doctor, there are still many preventive treatments and services for women that need to happen in person including routine mammograms, Pap tests, blood pressure screenings, and evaluations to determine if you are taking the right dosage of medication.

Many of these visits are covered at no charge by your health plan, so call us for details and to schedule!

Why You Need a Mammogram

Doctor Checking Radiography

Women have about a 1 in 8 chance that they’ll develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The best way to reduce your risk is to get a mammogram, an X-ray picture of the breast that can help doctors find early signs of breast cancer, sometimes even years before symptoms show up.

Your personal health risks and unique family history will determine when you should start getting mammograms. For healthy women of average risk, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial (once every two years) mammograms beginning at age 50 through age 74. If you have a close relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has had breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you start getting mammograms as early as age 30. After that, you and your doctor can decide when at how often it’s appropriate to get screened.

In recent years, doctors and specialists have come to question the benefits of breast self-exams at home. Even though self-exams were recommended for years, they haven't been shown to be effective in detecting cancer or improving survival for women with breast cancer. Instead, doctors recommend that you become familiar with what your breasts normally look and feel like. If this changes, make an appointment to see your doctor.

How Often to Screen for Cervical Cancer

Patient Suffering

Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of death for women in the United States, but advances in Pap tests, including increased usage, cut cervical cancer deaths dramatically. Pap tests can save your life!

Pap tests are not just for those who are sexually active or still in their child-bearing years: the average age when women are diagnosed with cervical cancer is 50, and more than 20% of cases are found in women over the age of 65. Pap tests should be started early. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends:

  • If you are between the ages of 21 and 65, get a Pap test every three years
  • If you are between the ages of 30 and 65 and want to screen less frequently, you may be able to have a Pap smear with specific HPV testing every five years

Your doctor will make recommendations based on your own unique health history and your family history.

Schedule Your Well-Woman Visit

Patient Listening

Well-woman visits are essential and should be scheduled in addition to your mammograms and Pap tests. They’re recommended for any woman of reproductive age or older (generally around 13 - 15) and can be scheduled through a primary care doctor or an OB/GYN.

Because well-woman visits focus on preventive care, each visit may be slightly different based on your age and your unique health needs. Your visit may include:

  • Age-appropriate immunizations (for example, the flu vaccine or a TD shot, if needed)
  • Age-appropriate health screenings, which could include checking your blood pressure or a pelvic floor exam
  • Recommendations for additional testing to screen for cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or depression, as needed

In addition to asking about your health history, your doctor may ask about any health goals and make recommendations to help you achieve those goals. To make the most of these visits, come prepared: think about any health questions you have, in advance, and take notes.

We’re Here for Every Age and Every Stage of Your Life

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Trust AltaMed to support your unique health needs. From primary care and specialists to dentistry, behavioral health services, and pharmacy, we are dedicated to caring for women and those they love. Schedule an appointment today.

AltaMed can provide information to you and your family about the best way to protect yourself and your family from COVID-19. To receive the latest news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, sign up today.

What You Should Know about Osteoporosis