As we age, we become more at risk for developing osteoporosis, which can result in painful fractures of the hips, wrist, or spine. When a fracture occurs in the spine, it is called a compression fracture.
Follow these 11 practical tips to take care of your bones now.
Understand osteoporosis risk factors
Osteoporosis is a disease of the bones that is characterized by weakening or "porous" bones.
Various factors like age, gender, family history, race, body type, menstrual history, and personal lifestyle and history can make certain patients more susceptible to osteoporosis with aging.
- Where do you fit with these osteoporosis risk factors?
Consider your family genes
Heredity and a family history of osteoporosis and/or fracture on the mother's side of the family can be early warning signs for some patients to be more proactive in how they exercise and eat.
- Understand the relationship between genetics and osteoporosis
Test bone mineral density
Peak bone mass is typically reached around age 30, and after that more the body starts losing bone strength. A quick and painless test, called a DEXA scan, measures bone strength.
- Read about bone density testing
Get yourself some calcium
Calcium not only promotes bone strength, it also helps the heart, blood, muscles and nerves. When the body does not get enough calcium, it will pull it out of the bones, stripping them of calcium and making them weaker.
A diet that focuses on more calcium intake can go a long way toward ensuring bone strength and minimizing osteoporosis.
“D” Up – Meet vitamin-D requirements
Like calcium, vitamin D plays a major role in preventing and minimizing osteoporosis, but levels in patients are often insufficient. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium in the gastrointestinal tract and transfers it to the bones (reabsorption).
- See these calcium and vitamin D requirements
Make other changes to your diet
A recent study showed that a Mediterranean diet may play a role in protecting bone density. Mediterranean diets include high consumption of olives, olive oil, vegetables, fruit, legumes, moderate consumption of dairy and fish, and a low consumption of meat and meat products.2
- Learn more about Mediterranean diets
Furthermore, limit how much cola/soda you drink, as studies have linked an increased likelihood of osteoporosis to drinking too much of these products. Substitute milk, juice, or water as often as possible.
Put weight into exercisingWalking strengthens your bones.
Regularly incorporating weight-bearing activities like jogging, walking, climbing the stairs, dancing, hiking, and playing volleyball or tennis for 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week is good for your bones, and also promotes overall physical and mental health.
Avoid excessive alcohol use
While it isn't exactly understood how alcohol affects bone, studies have shown that people who consume more than 3 ounces of alcohol (roughly 6 drinks) each day increase the likelihood of having more bone loss than those people with minimal alcohol intake.
Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis, specifically by reducing blood flow to the bones, slowing the production of bone-forming cells and impairing calcium absorption.
- See also stopping smoking, alcohol abuse
Explore osteoporosis-fighting medications with a doctor
A variety of medications that vary by class, delivery mechanisms, and frequency are available to treat and prevent osteoporosis.
Fosamax, Boniva, and Actonel are just a few examples of oral osteoporosis medications.
For other patients, osteoporosis injections that are taken once-a-day, once-a-week, or once-a-year (such as Reclast®) may be more preferable for preventing spine fractures and hip fractures.
Osteoporosis is not just a woman's disease
Government researchers have found that after age 50, nearly 6% of men will experience a hip fracture and nearly as many (5%) will suffer a spinal fracture caused by osteoporosis.
- See osteoporosis in men for more information on how this disease affects men.
Considering that osteoporosis can lead to significant pain and difficulty functioning, spinal deformity, and even serious illness or death in the most severe cases, there is a clear need for increased awareness of this disease and its prevention.