Ways to Prevent Osteoporosis
Written by Faith Anderson on October 6, 2011
1. Start Early
If you know you are at a higher risk of suffering from osteoporosis, there are great benefits in starting to fight it early on, according to Sabrina Strickland, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “If your mother had it, you should be doing everything right from age 20 to 30,” she says. “We make bone until we’re 30, so that is when we need to eat right – ideally we maximize bone mass while we are making it.”
Exercising is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent osteoporosis. “A total lack of exercise is bad; astronauts and spinal cord injury patients lose bone,” says Kenneth Lyles, MD, professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. According to Dr. Lyles, exercising five to six days a week can help prevent osteoporosis, incorporating thirty minutes of both aerobic and strengthening exercise two to three times a week.
3. Cut Back on Salt
There is no definitive evidence so far indicating whether or not salt impacts osteoporosis, but there does seem to be a correlation between high sodium intake and bone loss, particularly for people with high blood pressure. In general, salt increases the amount of calcium excreted in urine and sweat, which can spur bone loss if you already have a calcium deficiency. Research suggests that patients with high blood pressure lose more calcium in their urine.
4. Monitor Soda Intake
According to a large 2006 study, a high intake of cola, whether caffeinated, decaffeinated or diet, was linked to a greater risk of bone thinning. Although it is not clear if soda actually causes bone loss, experts believe the connection may lie in the theory that people who drink a lot of soda probably consume less dairy. Many sodas, including colas, contain phosphorous, which is a mineral that we need. However, phosphorous intake must be balanced with calcium to prevent an increased risk of bone thinning. In addition to phosphorous, researchers involved in the 2006 study indicated that the ingredients in cola extract could have a detrimental effect on bone health.
5. Decrease Caffeine Consumption
According to Dr. Strickland, caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption, so any substance containing caffeine, including coffee, soda and chocolate, should be limited. Moderate intake of caffeine – 300 mg a day, which is about one cup of coffee or two cups of tea – is probably not detrimental, as long as you are getting enough calcium as well.
6. Don’t Smoke
“I tell all of my patients to stop smoking because it is terrible for your bones,” says Dr. Strickland. Smoking inhibits the healing of fractures and reduces the body’s ability to make new bone. “When you stop smoking, you are immediately increasing your bone strength and ability to recover from injury.”
7. Watch your Medications
Some medications, including anti-inflammatory corticosteroids like prednisone, can cause bone thinning and increase your risk of getting osteoporosis. Proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid, which are used to treat acid reflux, change the pH balance in the stomach, which can affect how well calcium is absorbed with long-term use. Antidepressants known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and methotrexate are also associated with osteoporosis.
8. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Consuming up to two drinks a day could actually help prevent fractures, says Dr. Lyles. More than that, however, could reduce the absorption of calcium, deplete calcium reserves, and reduce the level of hormones like estrogen that are associated with bone production. In addition, consuming too much alcohol can put people at an increased risk for falls and broken bones.
9. Get Enough Calcium
Adults should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), and women over 50 and men over 70 should get 1,200 mg. Most people, except adolescent girls and the elderly, get enough calcium in their everyday diet. Calcium supplements are typically safe, but should be taken at the recommended dose and should be taken along with vitamin D. Too much calcium can increase the risk of kidney stones or other serious problems.
10. Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb, retain and use calcium. Sunlight triggers vitamin D production in the body, and the vitamin can be found in fortified foods like milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice. Although too much vitamin D can harm the heart or kidneys, it’s hard to get too much unless you take too many supplements. According to the NIH, you should aim for 600 international units (IU) daily, and 800 IU if you are over 70. The upper limit is 4,000 IU.
Prevent Osteoporosis and Help Improve Your Body’s Health
Osteoporosis can be a significantly incapacitating condition; some people with the disease become severely disabled as a result of weakened bones. Hip fractures leave about half of osteoporosis patients unable to walk independently, which is one of the major reasons people are admitted to nursing home facilities. By following these ten steps, patients at high risk for osteoporosis can improve their body’s health and potentially decrease their chances of getting osteoporosis in the future.