More than ten million Americans suffer from osteoporosis, a disease which weakens the bones and causes them to break easily. While it can occur in anyone, it is most prevalent in Caucasian and Asian females. Because your bones gradually lose strength as you age, the risk of being diagnosed with the disease increases as you get older.
Additional risk factors include:
- While all menopause accelerates bone loss for a period of years, early menopause is particularly impactful
- A family history of the disease
- Having suffered from a broken bone as an adult
- A life-long lack of calcium in your diet
- Enduring a lengthy period of bed rest at some point in your life
- A small body frame
- Long term use of certain medicines, such as prescribed steroids
Fortunately, there are some things you can do today to increase your bone strength and potentially prevent osteoporosis from happening to you.
- Exercise– Physical activity, particularly weight-bearing exercises, will help keep your bones strong. Consider weight bearing aerobic activity such as playing tennis, dancing, walking, or jogging three to four times per week. Exercises designed for strengthening and balance will help as well. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.
- Lifestyle Changes– It is recommended that you stop smoking, as tobacco use increases your chances of getting osteoporosis. Alcohol should only be used in moderation. Excessive alcohol use can put you off balance, increasing your risk of falling and breaking a bone.
- Speak with Your Physician– If you are taking any medicines that can weaken your bones, it is a good idea to talk to your physician about potential impacts and alternatives. Your doctor can also order a bone density test if you are concerned about bone loss.
- Calcium– One of the best things you can do throughout your life to avoid osteoporosis is to make sure you have enough calcium in your diet. Women over 50 need 1200 milligrams of calcium per day. From ages 51-70, men need 1000 milligrams, and they need 1200 milligrams after 70. It’s best to eat calcium rich foods such a salmon and dark green leafy vegetables. If you check the supermarket, you will also find products, such as orange juice, that have been fortified with calcium. However, your doctor may also recommend you take a calcium supplement.
- Vitamin D– Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. If you are ages 51-70, you need 600 IUof Vitamin D per day, and you need 800 IU if you are over age 70. Good sources for Vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish, and milk that has been Vitamin D fortified.