Bone Density Loss
As we age we gradually lose bone density, meaning that our bones do not renew themselves as quickly as they do during childhood and early adulthood.
This happens to everyone but if your bones become too thin and brittle you can develop osteopenia. This condition has no noticeable symptoms but if your bones weaken further it can lead to osteoporosis which increases your likelihood of broken bones and fractures.
Many older people develop osteoporosis but risk factors include low weight, low body mass index, smoking, heavy alcohol intake, lack of exercise, low levels of calcium or vitamin D and genetic predisposition. Women are prone to developing osteoporosis after the menopause.
Having HIV increases your chances of developing bone density loss, although opinion is divided on whether this is because of the virus itself or as a result of antiretroviral treatment.
If you develop osteoporosis, treatment, called bisphosphonates can help to build your bone density up again. You can combine treatment with lifestyle changes which should make bone breakages less likely.
Increasing the amount of impacting exercise you take can increase your bone density; this includes activities like walking, dancing or low impact aerobics. Strength training using weights can also help but activities like jumping or running are best avoided as are certain types of stretches that require you to twist or bend forwards.
Eating a healthy diet to help you get all the vitamins and minerals you need can help to strengthen your bones. It may be a good idea to book an appointment with a dietician and physiotherapist at your HIV clinic to get further advice.