Osteoporosis is a health condition that weakens our bones and leaves us at high risk for fractures. When someone has osteoporosis, the spaces inside the bones lose strength and density, and the outer parts of the bone become thin and weak. Hip, spine, and wrist fractures are among the most common.
As you get older, your risk of osteoporosis increases. But this isn’t an illness that only affects the elderly—it can actually strike at any age. In fact, osteoporosis is often referred to as a silent disease because it slowly weakens bones over time, leaving many unaware of its presence until experiencing a broken bone. If your doctor lets you know your bone mass is lower than it should be (this is sometimes referred to as osteopenia), you’re going to want to incorporate some diet and lifestyle changes to strengthen your bones and prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
Whether your bones are healthy now or have started to show signs of osteopenia or osteoporosis, it’s never too late to be proactive about your bone health. No matter how old or young you may be, there’s a lot you can do to prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Here are a few areas to focus on:
Exercise is crucial to keeping your bones healthy and strong, while also strengthening your muscles and improving balance, all of which are important for preventing injury and avoiding falls. A good rule of thumb here is to make a routine of doing weight-bearing and resistance exercises somewhere around three to four days a week or more. You have a lot of options for weight-bearing exercise, including walking, running, hiking, dancing, tennis, yoga, and stair-climbing. For strength and resistance training you can use free weights, weight machines, elastic resistance bands, push-ups and other exercises that use your own bodyweight, or even exercise in water.
To protect your body against osteoporosis, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is a mineral that helps the body build and maintain strong bones. If there isn’t enough calcium in your diet, your body may take calcium from your bones, which can weaken them and even lead to broken bones. Yogurt, milk, sardines, collard greens, beans, tofu, and whey protein are all great sources of calcium to include in your meals and snacks.
Vitamin D is important to bone health because it helps your body absorb and regulate calcium levels. Salmon and other fatty fish, egg yolks, mushrooms, cheese, and fortified milk are all good sources of vitamin D.
Being underweight puts you at risk for osteoporosis, so you’ll need to make sure you’re eating enough and maintaining a healthy weight. Repeated weight loss and restrictive diets that aren’t high enough in calories, calcium, vitamin D, and protein can stress and weaken your bones.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Eating a well-balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying active are all important in lowering your risk of osteoporosis. You’ll also want to stay away from smoking and heavy drinking, as drinking more than two alcoholic drinks each day and smoking both put you at risk for bone loss.
Pay attention to risk factors
Some factors increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- A family history of osteoporosis or broken bones
- Early menopause
- Breaking a bone after age 50
- Long periods of physical inactivity or bed rest
- Having a small frame
It’s important to speak with your doctor about these risk factors and to make an effort to incorporate healthy practices that might minimize your risk of developing the disease.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.