Five Ways to Prevent and Control Osteoporosis
Published August 2018
See What Puts You at Risk
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Caring for your bones becomes more important as you age. Approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and 43 million have osteopenia, or low bone mass. There is an estimated 2 million broken bones per year attributed to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can affect both men and women, but women tend to be more at risk. In fact, one in two women will suffer a fracture caused by osteoporosis. Risks for osteoporosis may include:
- Certain medical conditions. Celiac and Crohn’s disease, which affect the digestive system, can disrupt the absorption of calcium and nutrients needed for healthy bones. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the medications used to treat RA can affect the strength and quantity of bone mass.
- Early menopause (before age 45). Decreased estrogen levels, which occurs during menopause, can contribute to bone loss.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) under 19.
- Smoking. Reduces bone mass.
- Excessive alcohol intake.
- Genetics. Family history of osteoporosis is a contributing cause of osteoporosis.
- Cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy may increase a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis.
Five Things You Can Do to Protect Your Bones
- Amp up the Calcium
- Get an Extra Dose of Vitamin D
- Engage in the Right Exercise
- Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol Intake
- Take Medication When It Is Right for You
Calcium is one of the best lines of defense to help maintain strong bones. Dairy products, such as milk is one of the most common sources of calcium. One cup can provide between 27 and 35 percent of your recommended daily intake. But milk is not your only option. Other calcium-rich foods include cheese, yogurt, broccoli, kale, edamame, arugula, figs, oranges, canned salmon, white beans, tofu and almonds.
Vitamin D helps your body metabolize calcium and is considered just as important as calcium for bone health. Vitamin D can be found in seafood such as salmon or herring, egg yolks and wild mushrooms. You can also get vitamin D through a daily dose of sunshine — just don’t overdo it, as overexposure to the sun’s rays can damage your skin.
If you have osteoporosis, you don’t need to shy away from the gym. Appropriate weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can help build bone strength. Walking is one of the best weight bearing exercises for maintaining bone quality. Flexibility and core exercises can help decrease risk of falls by promoting good balance.
Smoking reduces bone mass. Alcohol can interfere with the balance of calcium and vitamin D, essential nutrients for bone health. In addition, excessive drinking in adolescence and young adults can significantly increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Certain medications can be used to prevent further loss of bone mass or to stimulate bone growth. Your healthcare provider can help assess if it’s necessary to start medications.
Talk to your healthcare provider to assess your risk for osteoporosis and when you should have a bone density test. Evaluations and treatment for osteoporosis are available at Northwestern Medicine Bone Health and Osteoporosis Program for an assessment.