You may think that osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become weak and brittle, is an inevitable part of aging and that you can’t do anything to prevent it. But that’s not quite true. Although some of the things that contribute to osteoporosis — such as your age, gender, and family history — can’t be changed, you actually have more control than you may realize over some of the things that impact your bone health.
Healthy bones are strong and dense. But when osteoporosis develops, bones become weak and porous — think of a sponge with lots of bubbles of empty space. Porous bones are fragile and can break or collapse easily.
Osteoporosis is fairly common. In fact, about 54 million people in the United States have osteoporosis or low bone mass, a condition that can lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures. Osteoporosis will contribute to about half of all American women and up to a quarter of men age 50 and older to incur broken bones.
The good news is that you can take some important steps to help prevent osteoporosis. Here are four things you can do:
The mineral calcium is a building block of healthy bone — in fact, your bones contain 99% of the calcium in your body. Women over 50 and men over 70 need 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily, while men ages 50-70 need 1,000 milligrams.
You can get calcium from milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, fish with soft bones that you eat (such as canned sardines and salmon), and calcium-fortified foods (such as juices, soy milk, rice milk, and breakfast cereals).
You can also get calcium from dietary supplements that contain calcium carbonate or calcium citrate. Your doctor at the South Texas Spinal Clinic can help you decide whether to take calcium supplements and which type is best for you.
Adequate amounts of vitamin D help your body absorb and use the calcium in food, which aids your body in maintaining strong bones. Adults need at least 600 IU of vitamin D until age 70 and 800 IU daily over age 70. However, your doctor here at the South Texas Spinal Clinic may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D.
You can get vitamin D from fish (such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), liver, fortified milk, fortified breakfast cereals, and eggs.
You can also get vitamin D from dietary supplements. Your doctor at the South Texas Spinal Clinic can help you decide whether you need vitamin D supplements.
Exposure to sunlight helps your body make vitamin D, but too much sun can raise your risk of skin cancer.
Exercise helps build and maintain strong bones. It also strengthens muscles and improves balance, which is important because being strong and agile helps you avoid falling and breaking bones.
Any amount of exercise is beneficial. But for optimal health benefits, aim to get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as walking, five or more days per week, and two sessions per week of strength training that works all of your major muscle groups.
You can help strengthen your bones and prevent falls by walking, jogging, climbing stairs, participating in group exercise classes and dance-style classes that focus on aerobic movement, and doing strength training.
Smoking has been linked to decreases in bone density. It increases the risk of breaking your bones, and if you do break a bone, smoking slows down the bone-healing process.
If you want to get help with quitting, there’s plenty of support available for people who smoke. Go to smokefree.gov for tips, tools, and links to apps that will help you quit. And talk with your doctor at the South Texas Spinal Clinic about smoking cessation programs near you.
If you have questions about your bone health, our doctors and nurses at the South Texas Spinal Clinic are here to help. Just give us a call or click the “book online” button to make an appointment. Our goal is to provide the very best orthopedic care to the communities of San Antonio and South Texas.