Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis

Keep Your Bones Healthy and Strong!

Are you worried about bone loss as you age?

If so, you’re smart to be thinking about it.

The good news is that you can take steps to prevent bone loss. By the end of this article, you’re going to know how to keep you bones strong and healthy through middle age and beyond.

Some statistics:

  • 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 34 million have low bone density.
  • 20% of those with osteoporosis are men.
  • About half of all women over 50 will suffer from a fractured hip, wrist or vertebrae.
  • White and Asian women over the age of 50 are at the highest risk.

What Causes Osteoporosis?

Before you can take steps to prevent osteoporosis, you need to know what causes it. Without getting too scientific, your body regularly absorbs old bone and tissue and replaces it with new using the minerals calcium and phosphate. Vitamin D also plays a huge role in helping your body effectively absorb the calcium.

When you’re young, your body replaces the bone faster than it absorbs the old bone, which causes your bone mass to increase. You reach peak bone mass in your early 20’s. As you get older, your body starts slowing down production and you lose bone mass faster than your body can replace it. Your bones then become porous and weak if you don’t take steps to prevent it.

Your likelihood of developing osteoporosis is dependent upon how much bone mass you accumulated when you were young, so it’s extremely important to get plenty of the necessary minerals during that time. If you didn’t though, there are still things that you can do to build bone and reduce your risk of injury.

Who’s at Risk?

Though osteoporosis affects adult men and women of all races, there are some factors that increase your risk. These include:

  • Sex – Women are much more likely to develop osteoporosis than men.

  • Age – Women over 50 and men over 70 are at higher risk.

  • Genetics – If your family has a history of bone loss or fractures, you’re at a higher risk.

  • Size – People with smaller frames are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

  • Low Hormones – Women’s estrogen levels dramatically decrease during menopause and men’s testosterone levels gradually decrease as they age. People with thyroid, parathyroid, or adrenal problems are also more prone to experience bone loss due to hormonal changes caused by these problems.

  • Dietary Issues – People who don’t eat enough calcium on a regular basis, people with anorexia or other eating disorders, and people who have had weight loss surgery are all at a higher risk for osteoporosis.

  • Medications –There are certain medications that effect the way that your body absorbs calcium or rebuilds bone. Some of these include certain anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, cancer treatments, steroids, meds for gastric disorders, and transplant anti-rejection drugs.

  • Bad Habits – Choices such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and living a sedentary lifestyle all increase your risk of developing osteoporosis.

As you can see, many of these factors are directly within your control. Just by making good life choices, you’re already taking steps to protect your bones.

How Can You Tell If You Have Bone Loss?

Many people don’t find out that they have weak bones until they actually break one of them. There is a test that your doctor can administer called a dual X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) that measures the density of the bones in your spine, hips and wrists. These are the places most susceptible to osteoporosis. The test is painless and quick.

How Can You Prevent Osteoporosis?

I’m glad that you asked because there are 5 main things that you can do to keep your bones dense and strong. By incorporating these healthy habits into your lifestyle, you’re drastically reducing your risk of bone loss.

  1. Get Plenty of Calcium – This is the main component of bone and if you don’t get enough, your bones WILL get weak. Adults 18-50 need 1000 mg per day. Women over 50 and men over 70 need 1200 mg per day. Good sources of calcium include:

    • Dairy products
    • Green, leafy veggies
    • Canned fish with bones included (salmon or sardines are great)
    • Soy products
    • Products that have calcium added

    It’s way better to get your calcium from dietary sources because it’s proven that your body absorbs it best when it’s consumed naturally, but if you can’t eat enough calcium-rich foods, you can always take a supplement.

  2. Get Plenty of Vitamin D – Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, so if you’re not getting enough D, it doesn’t matter how much calcium you’re getting. Scientists haven’t determined an ideal dose, but 600-800 international units per day is a good place for adults to start. You can safely take up to 4000 IU’s a day. Good sources of this vitamin include:

    • Sunshine! That’s right – you can absorb much of your daily requirement of vitamin D directly from the sun.
    • Fish and shellfish – Nearly all fish are great sources of vitamin D, especially fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, herring, sardines, trout and mackerel. Shrimp and oysters are also great sources.
    • Foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, cereals, and juices.
  3. Exercise – Combine strength training exercises with weight bearing exercises such as jumping rope, jogging, and stair climbing. Strength training exercises help build muscles that prevent injury and also build bone in your upper body. Weight bearing exercises work primarily by building bone in your lower body. Exercising not only strengthens and builds bone, it also slows your rate of bone loss.

  4. Quit Smoking – Smoking decreases the rate at which calcium is absorbed in your digestive tract. It also decreases estrogen levels in women, which we’ve already discussed as a factor that increases your risk of osteoporosis. Now you have yet another reason to stub out that smoke and throw the pack away.

  5. Drink Moderately – Consuming more than one drink per day may affect the way that your body absorbs calcium and builds bone. Drinking to excess also increases your risk of falling and breaking bones, so do like the commercials say and drink responsibly!

Now that you know what you need to do in order to avoid osteoporosis, get to work. Eat right, exercise, and drop the bad habits. After all, you only get one set of bones – take care of them!

If you have osteoporosis or know of other ways to help prevent it, please share your knowledge with us in the comments section below!

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