5 Lifestyle Steps for Better Bone Health

Osteoporosis and low bone mass, which puts folks at increased risk of this debilitating disease, affect a whopping 54 million people in the United States. Ten million actually have osteoporosis, while another 44 million have low bone density.

This means that half of all adults over the age of 50 are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health, says the National Osteoporosis Foundation. Studies show that approximately 1 in 2 women and up to 1 in 4 men age 50 or older will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

According to WebMD, if your doctor says you have thinning bones — osteopenia or osteoporosis — it’s critical to take steps now to slow the progression of the disease.

  1. Get your calcium and vitamin D levels checked. Harvard Medical School researchers noted that calcium is an important nutrient for building bone and slowing the pace of bone loss, but it is not a “magic bullet.” It needs its indispensable assistant, vitamin D, to help the body absorb calcium. Experts recommend taking 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily for adults up to age 50 and 1,200 milligrams for people aged 51 and older when bone loss accelerates.
  2. Do weight-bearing exercises. Exercise is also an important component of bone health. But always check with your healthcare provider to ensure you embark upon a safe program. “You may want to avoid high impact weight bearing exercises like jogging, running, or jumping rope if you are increased risk of fracture,” notes Claire B. Gill, chief mission officer of the National Osteoporosis Foundation. “Low-impact weight bearing exercises can also help keep bones strong and are a safe alternative. Elliptical machines and fast walking on a treadmill or outdoors are two examples.” In addition, she recommends lifting weights or using exercise bands to offer resistance against gravity and build stronger bones.
  3. Avoid smoking and drink moderately. Nicotine is toxic to bones, Dr. Kathryn Diemer, professor of medicine and an osteoporosis specialist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, tells WebMD. “The first thing I tell my patients who smoke is, if you don’t stop smoking there is very little we can do for your bones. You counteract all medications.” The expert says that one or two alcoholic drinks a week is fine, but more can result in a 2% annual bone loss.
  4. Talk to your doctor. Certain medications can increase your risk of bone loss. They can also cause dizziness which may trigger a bone-fracturing fall. According to Better Health While Aging, Dr. Leslie Kernisan, M.D., said busy doctors don’t always warn patients of the potential risks of certain drugs, so “it’s important to identify medications that might be increasing fall risk and try to reduce or eliminate their use.” She noted that you should always consult with a physician before stopping or tapering off medication.

    Experts at Harvard Medical School warn that the more medications you take, the greater the chance that one or more of them may trigger a tumble.

  5. Bone density testing. Diemer says that a bone mineral density test, or BMD, is the gold standard of determining the extent of your bone loss. “It’s a low radiation test and is the most accurate bone test we have,” she tells WebMD. Your doctor will determine how frequently you should get tested.

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