Posted May 09, 2017 by Anne Valeri, DO, FAAFP
Osteoporosis is a decrease in the density of bones, which can cause a person to be prone to fractures. There are many risk factors for this condition, including age, family history, smoking, long term treatment with steroids like prednisone and being postmenopausal. The best way to counteract osteoporosis is to take steps earlier in life to increase bone mass (and prevent its loss). Here are six things that can help ensure a lifetime of better bone health.
1. Boost Your Vitamin Intake: Calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K.
Calcium is essential for the proper development of teeth and bones. Help the body absorb calcium by pairing calcium-rich foods with those high in Vitamin D. The body also produces Vitamin D when exposed to the sun — 10 to 15 minutes three times per week will do. Vitamin K also helps the body make proteins for healthy bones. Filling up on foods like kale, broccoli, Swiss chard and spinach can only improve your health. Note- If you are on the blood thinner warfarin, please discuss your vitamin K intake with your physician.
2. Make Exercise a Priority.
Living a sedentary lifestyle is considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercises like running, walking, jumping rope, skiing and stair climbing keep bones strongest. Resistance training also improves bone health, so pick up the weights after going for a walk. Improved strength and balance helps prevent falls (and the associated fractures) in those who already have osteoporosis.
3. Know Your Family History.
Family history is a key indicator of bone health. Those with a parent or sibling who has or had osteoporosis are more likely to develop it. It’s never too early to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and family history.
4. Watch What You Drink.
Caffeine does have some health benefits, but some medical literature suggests that high caffeine consumption might be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Too much of it could interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Because the verdict is not yet out on a true link, enjoy your caffeine in moderation.
Heavy alcohol consumption can cause bone loss because it interferes with Vitamin D doing its job. Low to moderate consumption (that’s one drink per day for women, two per day for men) has a less negative impact on bones.
5. Don’t Smoke.
Nicotine is toxic to bones. Cigarette smoke generates huge amounts of free radicals – molecules that attack and overwhelm the body's natural defenses. The result is a chain-reaction of damage throughout the body— including cells, organs and hormones involved in keeping bones healthy. Smokers are at risk for delayed healing from fractures and orthopedic (bone) surgeries.
6. Talk to Your Doctor.
Your doctor can explain your own risks as well as options for preventing and treating bone loss. A bone mineral density test (BMD) can determine the extent of your bone loss if you are a woman who is 65 or older, or if you have enough risk factors. Your doctor will determine how frequently you should have a bone density test, based on your current health and risk.
Anne Valeri, DO, FAAFP
Associate Director, Family Medicine Residency
Summa Health System - Akron Campus