Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Improve Bone Health and Avoid Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is one of the most common serious health issues faced by the aging population. According to Osteoporosis Canada, at least one in three women and one in five men will suffer an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime. In fact, over 80% of all fractures in people over 50 are caused by osteoporosis.

It’s often called the “silent thief” because most people with osteoporosis don’t know they have the disease until they suffer a fracture. Although it’s thought of as a disease that impacts the elderly, the building blocks for osteoporosis are established at a young age. And certain habits can set you up for healthier bones later in life.

Whether you believe you may have osteoporosis or just want to learn what you can do to prevent or slow the disease’s progression, a rheumatologist can be your best resource. Drs. Nathaniel Neal and Rebekah Neal-Kraal are experts on osteoporosis and the musculoskeletal system as a whole and can diagnose the disease and create a treatment plan to improve bone health.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis literally translates to “porous bone.” Throughout life, your bones are changing. As you’re growing up, your bones grow stronger and denser.

Eventually, the bell curve of bone density reaches its highest point — depending on genetics and gender, this occurs sometime in your 20s. After age 30, your bones begin to lose strength and density, making them more brittle and prone to breaks.

Early action against osteoporosis

Osteoporosis prevention starts during childhood. While a child may not literally grow up big and strong from drinking milk, doing so still can help combat osteoporosis later in life. Your peak bone density isn’t set in stone. Although somewhat limited by genetics, peak bone density can be affected by diet. The higher your peak density, the lower your risk of an osteoporotic fracture.

Help prevent osteoporosis in your child by promoting a healthy diet with an emphasis on calcium and vitamin D and by encouraging physical activity. As part of overall wellness, stress the importance of safety and health vs. high-risk choices. Underage drinking is detrimental to bone health, as is smoking at any age.

Avoiding osteoporosis now

Don’t worry if you missed out on that extra glass of milk as a child. There’s plenty you can do as an adult to help you avoid osteoporosis, and a critical element in improving bone health is exercise.

When you move your muscles, you’re also moving your bones. As your muscles grow in strength, your bones do, too. Weight-bearing exercises that force your body to work against gravity are best. Some examples are walking, jogging, racket sports, tai chi, and yoga. Balance exercises are also key, as they can play a part in preventing a fall — the leading cause of hip fractures.

And you still can add more calcium and vitamin D to your diet. Good sources of calcium include fat-free and low-fat dairy products, dark green vegetables, cereal, and soy. Vitamin D is present in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and tuna), cheese, egg yolks, milk, and orange juice. Your skin naturally makes vitamin D when you’re out in the sun, so make sure to spend a few minutes outside every day, too.

You also can help ward off osteoporosis by stopping any smoking and limiting alcohol to 2-3 drinks per day. Excess drinking is linked to bone density loss, while smoking can make your bones brittle.  

Most importantly, evaluate your risk of factures. Gender, genetics, health history, and age all play a part in determining your level of risk. If you’ve previously suffered fractures or have a family history of osteoporosis, it may be a good idea to get a bone density test done. Once you know your level of risk, you can make informed lifestyle choices to avoid fractures.

While you may not be able to completely avoid osteoporosis, there are steps you can take now to ward off the disease. At Valerius Medical Group, we’re ready to help you tackle osteoporosis. If you’re worried about your risk factors, don’t hesitate to call or make an appointment online today.

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