Together with the wisdom and experience you gain with age, comes certain physical changes you could probably do without. One of those changes that nearly all of us face is the increased risk of bone loss and fractures as we age. However, if you are one of the 23.6 million Americans, or 7.8% of the population, who have diabetes, your risk of bone-related health problems may be greater than the average person.
Threats to Bone Health with Type 1
Diabetes is a disease caused by the failure of the body to produce insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. In both cases, treatment is available to manage the disease, but diabetes is also associated with a number of side effects, including bone-related problems and fractures.
It is estimated that up to 10% of people with diabetes have the Type 1 variety where the body cannot make insulin. These individuals often have low bone mineral density levels, which put them at risk for osteoporosis. This leads to weak and brittle bones that fracture easily.
In osteoporosis patients, the hips and pelvis are particularly vulnerable. In fact, a study in the journal, Diabetes Care, found that women with Type 1 diabetes are 12 times more likely to have a hip fracture than the general population.
It is essential for anyone with Type 1 diabetes to take supplements that provide a high level of calcium and vitamin D, at least 1,200 mg from carbonate and citrate and 200 I.U. of vitamin D per day. The earlier you start taking supplements, the more effective they will be at building strong bones while the body is still producing more bone mass than it loses.
Vitamins should accompany a nutritious diet of lean protein, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Regular exercise is also essential for building and preserving strong bones.
Threats to Bone Health with Type 2
If you suffer from Type 2 diabetes, you can also benefit from following the advice for Type 1. Type 2 patients, however, are more likely to develop osteoarthritis due to obesity, which is closely related to Type 2 diabetes. Carrying a lot of extra weight causes deterioration of joint cartilage, resulting in stiffness, pain, swelling and instability.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, work with your doctor to develop an exercise program to prevent joint problems and improve your overall health.
One recent large-scale study showed that women with Type 2 diabetes are 20% more likely to have a bone fracture of the hip, pelvis, leg, spine or foot.
This is probably due to weak and unstable joints. You’ll be amazed at how much more energy you will have when you do just 10 minutes of moderate exercise a couple times per day. Walking programs are an excellent place to begin. If you already suffer from osteoarthritis, discuss physical therapy treatments with your doctor so that you can regain your mobility and begin a self-directed exercise routine.
I know it can feel overwhelming to manage your diabetes while dealing with side effects and other health risks. Remember that you do not have to revamp your life overnight—one small change every day, like taking a 10-minute walk, will add up to big benefits over time. Regardless of your age or current health, it is never too late to decrease your risk of bone fractures and improve your quality of life.
Photo Credit: Boaz Yiftach