Osteoporosis Prevention: What You Need to Know
Many of the things that raise your chances for osteoporosis are things you can’t change, like your genes, your age, and your sex. But that doesn’t mean you can’t prevent the disease. The things you do every day can be part of your plan to build strong bones.
Just like your muscles, your bones get stronger if you give them a workout. Weight-bearing exercises are best for your bones. They’re the ones that force your body to work against gravity as you move. That prompts the body to make new bone.
Weight-bearing exercises include:
Strength training is also key to preventing osteoporosis. Your muscles pull on your bones when you work them. That builds bone strength. These workouts also make you more flexible and lower the chances that you’ll fall — the No. 1 reason for broken hips.
Any of these workouts can help you build muscle and bone:
When your body doesn’t have enough calcium, it will start to break down your bones to get what it needs. That means you lose bone mass. So it’s important to make sure you have this nutrient every day in your diet or from supplements. Get it from:
Vitamin D helps your body absorb the calcium you eat. Not many foods naturally have the nutrient, but you can get it in:
Your skin also naturally makes vitamin D when sunlight hits it. You can get at least some of what you need if you spend a little time outdoors every day. But don’t overdo it — too much time in the sun raises your chances for skin cancer.
Don’t drink too much alcohol. Having more than two drinks per day is linked to higher chances of bone loss.
Quit smoking. It doubles the chance of bone loss and fractures by keeping the hormone estrogen in your body from working well.
Avoid the “female athlete triad.” Women who exercise and train intensely can have three issues — thin bones, lack of a menstrual cycle, and eating disorders. It often happens to young women who stick to very restrictive diets even though they work out a lot. Athletes who have problems with their periods have lower estrogen levels. This often leads to lower bone mass.
Drink less soda. Some findings show that colas, more than other carbonated soft drinks, lead to bone loss. It may be that the extra phosphorus in them keeps your body from absorbing calcium. Or it may just be that women are replacing calcium-rich drinks, such as milk, with soda.
Some drugs can help the body maintain or build bone. Doctors often prescribe them for people, especially women, who have higher chances of getting osteoporosis or bone fractures. Ask your doctor if these drugs are a good idea for you.
A bone density test measures a small part of one or a few bones to see how strong they are and can tell how likely you are to have osteoporosis. The most common one is called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA or DEXA) scan. It uses a small amount of radiation to measure your bone density.
But the scan isn’t right for everyone. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says people who should get DXA scans for bone density include:
Talk to your doctor about whether the test is a good idea for you.