Healthy living is key to the prevention of age-related bone changes
A discussion of bone health and healthy aging was provided by Julie A. Switzer, MD, for UMRA’s February 2023 Living Well Workshop. She discussed how bones age over time and ways to prevent that aging. Dr. Switzer is nationally and international known for her interest in and research, publications, and presentations on bone health and musculoskeletal care in the older population.
She initiated her discussion with a few apropos lyrics from a song, “When the Bones are Gone, the Rest Doesn’t Matter.” This was followed by an overview of bone aging and how bone fractures affect health, particularly over the age of 60. The common fractures are in the radius bone at the wrist, the vertebral bones of the spine, and the hip. The latter is more common in people over 80 and has a significant impact on quality of life and mortality.
Next, Switzer described normal bone by comparing it to the concrete used by the Romans, rich in lime that fills the cracks that occur, along with water, and aggregate. The composition is similar to human bones, except human bones are alive, and respond and remodel when exposed to external stress such as weight-bearing and resistance exercise. However, the bones start aging after 30 years, increasing over time in both men and women, though greater in the latter at menopause. And when a fracture occurs, the potential for another fracture is increased.
Exercise is essential
The major message Switzer provided is that healthy living is the best approach to the aging process and to the prevention of age-related bone changes including fractures. Her approach to healthy aging includes four parts: exercise, diet, healthy habits, and osteoporosis medications. Of these, she said, exercise is the most important, both weight-bearing and resistance exercise, along with balance training and fall prevention education. Some exercise examples: walking, tennis, team sports, dance, and Tai Chi. When asked which exercise is best, Dr. Switzer responded, “Whatever exercise you like to do.”
A balanced diet includes foods rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D (the sun helps here, too), and some magnesium. Taking osteoporosis medications is essential when indicated. There are a number of effective ones and working with your health provider will determine what works best for you. Healthy habits include not smoking, controlling alcohol intake, and living like residents in the Blue Zones described by Dan Buettner—where moving naturally, feeling a sense of purpose, enjoying social interaction, and downshifting are common denominators.
This was a well-attended and informative workshop, including an engaging Q&A, with a real expert in the field.
—Frank Cerra, MD, UMRA Program Committee member
Bone health and aging
Tue, February 21 2023, 11am
Julie A. Switzer, MD
Medical director of geriatric orthopedics
TRIA Healthy Aging
Event to be held via Zoom.
Minnesota Top Doctor Julie A. Switzer, MD, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with specialization in upper extremity and geriatric orthopedics. She has dedicated the majority of her career to making a substantive difference in the care of older patients. Her topic as the guest speaker for UMRA's Living Well Workshop on Tuesday, February 21, via Zoom will be bone health and aging—a topic of great interest to UMRA members.
She is medical director of geriatric orthopedics for TRIA Healthy Aging and HealthPartners’ Masters Orthopedic Program. In this role, Switzer has spent the majority of her 20-year career dedicated to establishing and leading an interdisciplinary, protocol-driven program focused on enhancing care for older fracture patients in the perioperative period; preventing subsequent fractures in elderly fracture patients; and working with vulnerable populations of elders with musculoskeletal problems. Her work on healthy aging focuses primarily on the comprehensive care of arthritis, the most common chronic musculoskeletal condition of aging.
Switzer currently serves as co-chair for the American Academy for Orthopaedic Surgeons Clinical Practice Guideline Workgroup on Hip Fractures in Elderly Patients; is a founding member and board member of the International Geriatric Fracture Society, presently serving as vice president; is on the board of the Fragility Fracture Network; and is on the steering committee of the American Orthopaedic Association’s Own the Bone program.
She recently retired as an associate professor from the University of Minnesota Department of Orthopedic Surgery.
Go to z.umn.edu/umra-workshop-February-2023 and register now for this Zoom webinar at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, February 21.
—Frank Cerra, UMRA Program Committee
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