Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose density, making them weak and more likely to break. It is a serious condition, but many people don’t discover it until they break a bone. While you cannot control all risk factors for osteoporosis, there are some things that you can do to decrease your chance of getting osteoporosis.
The following factors can aid in the prevention of osteoporosis.
1. Make sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
We need calcium to keep our bones strong. It is also used for other bodily functions such as blood circulation and muscle control. Our bodies don’t produce calcium, so we need to absorb it from our food. This is where vitamin D comes in--our bodies need it to effectively absorb the calcium from our food. When the body doesn’t get enough calcium, it begins to remove calcium from the bones, which can weaken the bones and eventually lead to osteoporosis.
Dairy products are the biggest sources of calcium in foods, although it is present in some non-dairy foods. If you aren’t able to get enough calcium through your diet, as is usually the case with those who avoid dairy products, you can take calcium supplements. Our bodies produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but excessive exposure to UV radiation can result in skin cancer, so vitamin D supplements are recommended as well. Many foods contain vitamin D, but not as much as our bodies need for optimal bone health.
2. Get moving!
You know that exercise makes your muscles stronger, but did you know that it can make your bones stronger, too? Bone is a living tissue, and it is constantly rebuilding itself and adapting to the forces we place on it. Because exercise places more force on the bones than our normal activities, our bones respond by making more cells to create denser bone. Weightbearing and strength training exercises are the most effective in building stronger bones because they place more stress on the bones and make them work harder. However, if you have already been diagnosed with thinning bone, you should talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program to determine whether it is appropriate for you.
3. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol use.
As I have discussed previously, smoking can increase your risk of osteoporosis. It decreases the body’s absorption of calcium, reduces blood flow to the bones, and breaks down estrogen in the body more quickly, all of which increase your chances of osteoporosis. Excessive alcohol use also contributes to bone loss, which can eventually lead to osteoporosis.
4. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
In addition to making sure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D, you should aim for a healthy diet overall. Certain foods, including dairy products and some fish, fruits, and vegetables, contain the nutrients your bones need to stay healthy. However, just as these foods can affect your bones in a positive way, others can negatively impact your bone health. Salty, processed foods can make your body lose calcium. A diet too high in protein can also cause the body to lose calcium. Caffeinated beverages and foods containing high levels of substances called phytates, such as wheat bran and beans, can decrease calcium absorption. To reduce your risk of osteoporosis, it is best to limit your intake of foods that can negatively impact the calcium levels in the body.
While it is especially important to work to prevent osteoporosis as we age, these factors are important for our health at any age. It’s never too late to start making positive changes to live a healthy life.