15 Things To Do Right Now To Prevent Osteoporosis

Laura Lambert | Aug 28, 2019 Healthy Living
15 Things To Do Right Now To Prevent Osteoporosis
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15 Things To Do Right Now to Prevent Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis can happen to anyone as they age. It's a disease primarily characterized by low bone mass that leads to fragile, weak bones. This creates an increased likelihood of bone fractures and breaks, particularly in the wrist, hip, and spine. Although men can get osteoporosis, the majority of people suffering from this disease are women. In fact, one in two women older than 50 is likely to have an osteoporosis-based fracture at some point in her life. This isn't because women older than 50 get more clumsy -- it's that osteoporosis causes the bones to become more brittle, so even a mild stress can cause a fracture. (For people with very advanced osteoporosis, even coughing may lead to a broken bone.) So for women, it's especially important to act preventatively and be aware of risk factors specific to our particular lifestyle and ethnic backgrounds.

Although there aren't any outward symptoms of early bone loss, some later symptoms in older family members may include loss of height, a hunched-over posture, back pain, and, yes, easily broken bones. Building strong bones in our youth can help set us up for a lifetime of good, solid bone health. That's why if we follow the guidelines here now, we can have healthy, strong bones long into our old age. It can be hard for us to remember that we need to take care of ourselves and be as present about our own health as we are about our kids' well-being. Women struggling to make sure they get seen for everything they're supposed to should check out a doctor's checkup checklist moms need for themselves. Another resource for anyone who's concerned about health as they age is 20 ways to reverse the effects of an aging brain, which is a way to counteract mom brain, too. And just remember that aging isn't all doom and gloom. Check out these 18 famous women who are aging gracefully.

  • Don’t Be Blasé

    Don’t be blasé

    More than 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have early stages of it. By 2020, a full 20 percent of the US population will have osteoporosis. The condition predominantly affects people over 50. Roughly one in two women and up to one in four men will break a bone because of osteoporosis -- and yet, 80 percent of older Americans who break a bone aren't tested or treated for osteoporosis. Doctors are blasé about bone health, Dr. Farah Naz Khan said in an article for Vox. And as our population ages, the consequences of that attitude are real and significant.

  • Know the Risk

    Know your risk

    Osteoporosis has no obvious symptoms, which is why it's called a silent disease. Most people don't know they have it until they break a bone after a mild fall.

    But if someone in our immediate family has osteoporosis, that puts us one step ahead of the game -- we know the risk might be higher. It's also higher for people who are small-framed, regardless of gender, and if they're white or Asian.

    For those who are concerned, don't wait to get tested. Just this year, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine developed a genetic screening that can predict risk of bone problems.

  • Women Should Take Extra Care

    Take extra care if you're a woman

    All that said, one of the biggest risk factors for osteoporosis is out of our hands -- it's about chromosomal gender. Roughly 80 percent of the 10 million people who have it are women. And women are about twice as likely to break a bone because of osteoporosis than men.

    But there's more. Estrogen, among other things, helps protect bones. So, when menopause occurs, there's a marked increase in the risk for bone loss.

  • Eat Yogurt

    Drink Milk

    It's important to get calcium in multiple forms. One study found that women who eat yogurt daily decreased their risk for osteoporosis by 39 percent. Overall, we should aim for about 1,000 mg each day, starting in adulthood. After 50, women can bump it up to 1,200 mg -- same for men over 70.

  • Eat Those Greens

    Eat Those Greens

    Another source of dietary calcium comes from dark, leafy greens. Think kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and broccoli. Keep in mind, though, that although dietary calcium is more readily absorbed than supplements, studies show that the calcium in dairy is more readily absorbed than the calcium in greens.

  • Go Fish

    Go Fish

    Three ounces of sardines, canned in oil, has about 324 mg of calcium -- about one-third of the daily amount. (The secret is the edible bones.) The omega-3s in fish have been shown to improve bone health, as well.

  • Don’t Neglect Those Other Nutrients

    Don’t Neglect Those Other Nutrients

    Calcium isn't the only mineral that matters when it comes to bone health. Magnesium and potassium are also associated with better bone density in women and men 70 or older. Sweet potatoes are a great source for both.

  • Especially That Vitamin D

    Especially That Vitamin D

    Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium. Together, vitamin D and calcium are like a one-two punch for bone health.

    Vitamin D can come from food and supplements; the recommended amount is 600 international units daily. Fatty fish, liver, cheese, eggs, and vitamin-D-fortified foods, such as some orange juices, are easy-to-find sources.

  • Go Outside

    Go Outside

    The main way to boost vitamin D naturally is to get some sunshine. Although recommendations vary, typically 15 to 30 minutes in the sun, right around noon, three times per week, is plenty. For those who live far away from the equator,  additional time will likely be needed.

  • Put Down That Cocktail

    Put Down That Cocktail

    The latest headline-grabbing study suggests that no amount of alcohol is safe for a variety of reasons. But it's long been believed that excessive drinking -- in particular, during young adulthood -- is bad for bones.

    "Alcohol has multiple effects on calcium," Dr. Primal Kaur, an osteoporosis specialist at Temple University, told WebMD. "The bones deteriorate because not enough calcium is getting into bones -- and the body is leaching it away from bones." For older adults, there's also the increased risk of falling.

  • Cut Cigarettes

    Cut The Cigarettes

    Smoking can increase bone loss in a variety of ways. For one, smoking is related to lower estrogen levels in women, particularly around menopause. Men and women who smoke also tend to drink excessively, a risk factor, and are thinner, another risk factor.

  • Switch to Tea

    Switch To Tea

    Studies show that coffee and soda -- but not tea, even if it's caffeinated -- is also associated with bone loss. As with smoking, the mechanism is not totally clear. One theory is that people who drink a lot of soda or coffee are not drinking dairy. Another theory is that the phosphoric acid in soda, for instance, keeps the body from absorbing calcium.

  • Put Some Stress on Those Bones

    Put Some Stress On Those Bones

    "Bones are alive and constantly turning over and remodeling themselves," Dr. Alpesh Patel, director of orthopedic spine surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, told U.S. News and World Report. The way to help bones grow stronger is to, basically, stress them out. Weight-bearing exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, yoga and dance, hiking, jogging, and running are all common ways to help bone health. Muscle-strengthening exercises are key as well.

  • Watch Those Meds

    Watch Those Meds

    There's such a thing as drug-induced osteoporosis. It typically affects people who are taking certain drugs over long periods of time. Common steroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, can take a toll on bones -- as can some anti-seizure medications and drugs used to treat certain endometriosis, prostate cancer, infertility in women, and breast cancer. Certain antacids and heartburn medications, as well as antidepressants, also can affect bone density. Talk to a health care provider, which is especially essential for anyone who has risk factors for osteoporosis.

  • Get a Baseline

    Get A Baseline

    To have a true sense of the risk for osteoporosis, we need a bone density scan. There are two common tests, neither of which is invasive. Most women can wait until 65 and men until 70. But for those who have risk factors or have broken a bone under age 50, it's a sign to go in earlier.

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