Osteoporosis describes a condition in which you’ve lost a lot of bone or aren’t making enough. The bones thin, making you vulnerable to height loss, limited mobility, and serious breaks that have trouble healing, causing pain and sometimes early death.
When it comes to being at risk of osteoporosis, you can’t change your gender, your genes, or your age. But you can create lifestyle habits that greatly reduce your risk of developing this debilitating condition. Incorporate these five strategies into your lifestyle to keep your bones healthy and minimize your risk of osteoporosis.
Your bones benefit from regular exercise, but not just any exercise. To prevent osteoporosis, seek out physical activity that forces you to bear your weight — think resistance training, jogging, dancing, or tennis. Swimming and cycling are great for your heart, but they don’t provide enough weight-bearing to build bone.
Weight-bearing exercise causes your muscles to pull against bone when you’re moving, and this prompts your body to make new bone. This offsets bone loss that occurs with osteoporosis and prevents excessive thinning.
Your body needs calcium for a number of basic functions, including muscle action and organ function. If you don’t consume enough calcium in your diet or through supplements, your body starts to break down your bones to access the mineral. Aim to take in 1,000 milligrams daily if you’re a woman younger than 50 and 1,200 milligrams daily if you’re older than 50.
Good sources include dairy products, calcium-fortified juices and alternative milks, canned fish with the bones, and dark green vegetables, such as broccoli. If you don’t regularly consume these foods, discuss options for calcium supplements with the staff at The Association for Women’s Health Care.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. You can synthesize vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, but in climates like ours, the sun just isn’t strong enough 365 days per year to facilitate this action.
You can find vitamin D in some foods, including fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolks, and fortified juices or milk. Talk to the team at The Association for Women’s Health Care about possibly adding a vitamin D supplement to your diet to make up for any deficiencies and to help ward off osteoporosis.
Chronic heavy drinking, especially in your young adult years, compromises bone quality and can increase your osteoporosis risk. Even if you quit drinking or moderate it later, you can’t undo the damage from your early years. Consuming more than two drinks per day is associated with a greater risk of osteoporosis.
A high soda, specifically cola, intake may lead to bone loss. The phosphorus in these drinks may inhibit your ability to absorb calcium. If you choose cola over milk and other calcium-containing drinks, this also puts your bones at risk.
Smoking doubles the chance of bone loss and increases your risk of fractures. It reduces the amount of calcium your bones absorb and interferes with how your body uses vitamin D. Smoking also lowers estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that helps your bones hold onto calcium and other minerals that make them strong.
If you smoke during your bone-building years — especially your teens and 20s — your bones can’t reach their peak bone mass level. And, smoking after age 30 accelerates loss of bone mass.