# Wednesday, 07 November 2007
                 

Osteoporosis Month In Canada

November is Osteoporosis Month in Canada. Approximately 1.4 million Canadians suffer from this disease, which mostly affects aging adults. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone density that causes bone fractures, deformity and/or disability. It usually affects twice as many women as men, with 1 in every 4 women over 50 at risk.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone mineral density is lost. This causes bones to become think and weak, and at high risk for fractures. It is  also known as the "Silent Thief" because there are usually no symptoms of bone loss until fractures start occurring. The most common fractures occur in the wrist, hip and/or spine. Mortality is significantly increased after hip fractures, and less than 50% of seniors fully recover from this ailment. It is estimated that 25% of seniors who have fractured a hip reside in long-term care facilities for at least one year.

Women are twice as susceptible to osteoporosis because they experience menopause. Estrogen is responsible for helping women maintain healthy bones. As estrogen levels drop significantly during menopause, women experience more bone loss. While hormone replacement therapy can help women reduce the drop in estrogen, it can increase their risk of breast cancer, as well as other adverse health effects. This is an option that should carefully be considered by a woman and her physician.

Although not as common in men, osteoporosis can occur. As well as age, there are several factors that increase a person's risk, including:

• A family history of osteoporosis
• Low calcium diet
• Sedentary lifestyle (not enough exercise)
• Low body weight
• Smoking
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Excessive caffeine intake (more than 4 cups a day of coffee, tea, and/or cola)
• Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day)
• Long term use of certain medications (cortisone, prednisone, anticonvulsants)
• Osteopenia (lower than normal bone density)
• Early menopause or removal of ovaries (before 45) without hormone replacement
• Post-menopausal


If some of these risk factors are applicable to you or someone in your family, talk to your physician about a bone density test. Because bone density loss does not have symptoms until a fracture occurs, it is essential that seniors (especially women) take preventative measures. All seniors should:

• Follow a healthy diet, that includes calcium rich food. People over 50 need 200 mg of calcium per day. As the body ages, it loses the ability to absorb calcium as well as it used to, so seniors may require a calcium supplement. Calcium rich foods include milk products, salmon, beans, sunflower and sesame seeds, green vegetables, figs, and rhubarb.
• Get enough Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. All people over 2 years of age should consume 500 ml of milk every day, and everyone over 50 should take a daily supplement of 400 IU of Vitamin D.
• Regular exercise is important to keep bones strong. Seniors can do low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, hiking, etc. as part of their daily routine in order to strengthen bones. Activities such as yoga, swimming, tai chi can increase flexibility that helps prevent falls, which is important for those who already have osteoporosis.
• Quit smoking. Just by quitting you can dramatically reduce the rate of bone loss and risk of fractures.

Health concerns and needs change constantly throughout our lives. Therefore, it is imperative that our health insurance coverage reflects these changes, and adequately provides for these needs. For instance, Canadians in their 20's may not give much thought to whether or not their insurance covers such things as nursing homes and/or home care. However, for seniors, this may now be a priority in their coverage.

There are different ways to obtain health insurance that reflects these specific needs. Critical Illness insurance pays a lump sum for those who suffer a critical illness, regardless of if and when you are able to return to work. Although illnesses covered depends on the carrier, C.I. covers such health problems as:

• Cancer
• Heart Attack and/or Stroke
• Alzheimer’s
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Kidney Failure
• Blindness or Deafness
• Organ Transplant
• HIV/AIDS
• Parkinson’s Disease

Disability insurance pays a monthly benefit when the insured person is unable to work due to illness and/or accident, usually up to 2/3 of your current earnings. Premiums are higher for occupations deemed more dangerous. This benefit can last up until 2 years, until the age of 65. After 65, this benefit can be continued (although may be modified) but the insured must continue to work.

For residents of Ontario and Quebec there is a new product available from Blue Cross called Tangible. This insurance is a hybrid that offers Disability and Long Term Care if needed; if not it remains as life insurance coverage. With Tangible, 50% of the initial amount insured can be converted for Long Term Care.

It is important to remember that life doesn't remain constant. As our health needs change, we need to ensure that our insurance changes with it. Consult with your broker every few years in order to make sure that your current health insurance reflects your needs.

posted on Wednesday, 07 November 2007 00:11:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #   
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