Especially as you age and your risk for osteoporosis increases, it’s important to know how to keep your bones healthy and strong. Use the tips in this article to help you achieve good bone health.
According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis leads to 8.9 million bone fractures around the world every year. Worldwide, one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50 will experience such an osteoporotic fracture.
Those might seem like overwhelming numbers, especially considering that bone loss occurs naturally as you age. However, there are steps you can take to keep your bones healthy and strong throughout your life.
Good Nutrition and Vitamins for Bone Health
A well-balanced diet including adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals is important for good bone health and your overall well-being. Calcium is essential for bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb this mineral. Adults need about 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, with women over age 50 and men over age 70 requiring a little extra at 1,200 milligrams daily.
Good sources of calcium include:
- Leafy greens
- Dairy products
- Calcium-fortified foods
Of course, all the calcium in the world does your bones no good unless it can be absorbed. That's where vitamin D comes in. The sun allows your body to produce vitamin D, but you have to balance that with the risk of sunburn and skin damage. When you wear sunscreen, you're not getting the vitamin D from the sun.
Fortunately, there are also a lot of foods with plenty of vitamin D, including:
- Egg yolks
- Vitamin D-fortified foods
Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor if your diet is providing enough calcium and vitamin D. If not, your doctor might encourage you to take a supplement.
Exercise for Healthy Bones
An exercise program can be used to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Our bodies respond to the pressure we put upon them by growing stronger. This is easily demonstrated with weight lifting: when someone lifts weights regularly, the muscles grow and get stronger. The same thing happens with our bones with weight-bearing exercise.
"Weight-bearing" doesn't necessarily mean you're using weights. It just means your body is working against gravity. Weight-bearing activities include:
- Resistance Training
Keep in mind that swimming is good exercise, but it does not put enough pressure on the bones to make them grow and change, so it will not help prevent osteoporosis. If you enjoy swimming, keep it in your workout program, but add weight-bearing exercises, as well.
The other great benefit of exercise is that it helps you improve your balance, which can prevent falls. Many bone fractures among those with osteoporosis occur because of a fall.
Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor to help you design an appropriate workout routine based on your age, abilities, and medical conditions. Keep in mind that you want to start slow and build up to more challenging workouts. Your doctor might recommend working with a fitness instructor or personal trainer.
Know Your Risk for Osteoporosis
Who is at risk for osteoporosis? There are certain behaviors and conditions that increase your risk of bone loss. Some of these can be prevented, and some cannot:
- Gender: Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis. For example, women experience 75 percent of hip fractures. This article helps explain what women need to know about osteoporosis.
- Age: Risk increases as you get older. This is why it's important to start good nutrition and exercise habits as soon as possible.
- Family History: Having parents or siblings with osteoporosis puts you in a higher risk category.
- Smoking: Is smoking a risk factor for osteoporosis? The connection between tobacco and osteoporosis isn’t exactly clear, but studies have shown tobacco use contributes to weak bones.
- Hormonal Imbalances: Low sex hormones, high thyroid hormones, and even overactive adrenal glands can contribute to osteoporosis risk.
- Alcohol: More than two drinks a day can impact your body's ability to form bone, not to mention the increased risk of falling associated with being intoxicated.
- Medications: Certain medications can impact bone density.
- Medical Conditions: There is a higher risk of osteoporosis associated with conditions like cancer, kidney disease, and others.
- Body Weight and Frame: Having a low body weight can contribute to osteoporosis. Having a small frame means there is already less bone, so there is less that can deteriorate before a fracture is likely.
Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor if any of your medications might contribute to bone loss or prevent bone building. It might be possible to switch medications if you have other risk factors for osteoporosis that put you at a high risk for bone loss. Ask about tests for hormonal imbalances and see what can be done to correct them. Ask for resources to help you quit smoking or start an exercise program.
Depending upon your age and other risk factors, you might ask your doctor if a bone density test would be appropriate for you. This will show you how strong your bones are, which will let you know if you're on the right preventive track or if you need to take more drastic action to reduce your risk of bone loss and fracture.
Know How to Keep Your Bones Healthy
Bone loss is not inevitable. You can take control of your health with careful preventive measures and a strong line of communication with your healthcare providers. CareSync, the top choice among Chronic Care Management companies, can help. Our care coordination services and solutions include clinical support for those with chronic conditions such as osteoporosis, educational resources for better health management, and care coordination apps that help individuals stay on track with their care and monitor their progress.