About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

 

Improving Your Bone Health

Improving Your Bone Health

The right diet and adequate exercise is important for treating and preventing osteoporosis, a disease in which your bones lose density and become porous and brittle. Bones can become so brittle that a mild fall, or coughing can cause a fracture. The most common osteoporosis-related factures occur in the hip, wrist and spine.

Diet

Adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, along with regular exercise are key factors in preventing osteoporosis. Good sources of calcium in your diet include:

  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Canned salmon or sardines with bones
  • Soy products, such as tofu
  • Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice

Vitamin D enables your body to absorb calcium. Many people can get adequate vitamin D from sunlight, but that can depend on where you live and how much time you spend in the sun. If you are housebound, live at high altitudes, or avoid the sun because of risk of skin disease, a daily dose of vitamin D can be obtained through diet or supplements.

Exercise

Weight-bearing exercise such as weight training, walking, hiking, running, and climbing stairs is the very best for bone health. Swimming and bike riding are great activities for cardiovascular health, but are not considered weight-bearing exercise.

If you have not been exercising regularly, or are considering ramping up your exercise regime, it’s always important to check with your AOA physician beforehand. Additionally, if you already have osteoporosis, it’s important to ask your AOA doctor which activities are safe for you. You may need to protect your spine by avoiding exercises that require bending and twisting, or you may need to avoid high-impact exercise to prevent the risk of fractures.

While far less common, it’s important to note that too much exercise also can create problems that negatively impact bone health. For example, a common symptom of exercising too much is amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods). While on the face of things it may seem like a minor problem, or perhaps to some even a benefit, amenorrhea is often the result of a decrease in estrogen levels in the body and decreased estrogen can lead to osteoporosis. Even young women who participate in overly rigorous exercise regimes, serious athletes, and women who attempt to control their weight by severely restricting their eating are at risk of developing osteoporosis.

In our society we sometimes suffer from our mistaken belief that a “no pain, no gain” mentality is what it takes to make a “champion.” Pain, headaches, and missed periods are brushed aside as unimportant pursuit of being the best. If you, or someone you know is exercising so much they have stopped having their regular menstrual period, however, they are risking their long-term bone health.

Talk with your AOA doctor about getting a baseline bone density test so you can be aware of the current health of your bones and make sure the super-athletes in your life know that the risks of osteoporosis are related to decreased estrogen and are not limited to post-menopausal women.